This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.
TUNIS, Tunisia – A Tunisian investigative judge ordered on Thursday, April 20, the imprisonment of Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of main opposition party Ennahda and a prominent critic of President Kais Saied, the politician’s lawyer told Reuters.
The 81-year-old, head of the Islamist Ennahda party, was the speaker of the elected parliament, which was shut down in 2021 by President Kais Saied when he seized all powers.
Ghannouchi, who was arrested on Monday, was ordered detained following an investigation by the judge that lasted eight hours, lawyer Monia Bouali added. No date has been set for any trial or the next hearing.
Ennahda condemned the “unjust decision” and said it was intended to cover up failure in a stifling economic and financial crisis that is leading the country towards bankruptcy.
It said that targeting a “national symbol” who has spent decades resisting dictatorship would not resolve Tunisia’s problems and would not weaken the opposition.
Ghannouchi’s official Facebook page published a comment by him after the judge’s decision, which said: “I am optimistic about the future…. Tunisia is free.”
His lawyer said the decision to hold Ghannouchi in custody was pre-planned because of his expressions of opinion.
The 81-year-old was the speaker of the elected parliament, which was shut down in 2021 by Saied when he seized all powers.
Tunisian authorities on Tuesday banned meetings at all offices of Islamist party Ennahda and police closed the headquarters of the Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition.
Ennahda fears the move will pave the way for banning the party, the party said.
The US said Ghannouchi’s arrest, the closure of Ennahda’s headquarters, and the banning of meetings by opposition groups represented a troubling escalation.
An interior ministry official said Ghannouchi had been arrested after “inciting statements.”
Ghannouchi said in an opposition meeting last week that “Tunisia without Ennahda, without political Islam, without the left, or any other component, is a project for civil war.”
The influential leader, who was in exile in the 1990s and returned during Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that brought democracy, said those who “celebrated the coup are extremists and terrorists.”
Ghannouchi has faced repeated rounds of judicial questioning over the past year on charges relating to Ennahda’s finances and to allegations it helped Islamists travel to Syria for jihad, charges he and the party both deny. – Rappler.com