Ghannouchi’s arrest raises global concern - GulfToday

Ghannouchi’s arrest raises global concern


Rached Ghannouchi

Tunisia’s leader of Ennahda Islamist party, Rached Ghannouchi, has been detained in the run-up to his trial on charges of treason and threatening national security. No date has been fixed for the trial. The order detaining the 81-year-old former parliament speaker was issued by the judge who is presiding over the trial. President Kais Saied, who had assumed total powers, shut down parliament, dismissed the judges and carried out a referendum of a new constitution which was boycotted by the opposition, is seen as the man behind the moves to suppress and silence the opposition parties.

He believes that it is necessary to remove the existing political class to save Tunisia from slipping into chaos, and has been facing stiff resistance from the opposition parties who are refusing to give up the fight. Said Ghannouchi after the order detaining him was issued posted on Facebook, “I am optimistic about the future…Tunisia is free.” Ghannouchi had been in exile in the 1990s and ever since the Jasmine Revolution of 2011 when democracy was restored in the country he had led his party to be part of the many coalition governments since then. Ennahda’s party offices have been closed. Ennahda in its statement called the order detaining Ghannouchi unjust and it said that this was an attempt by the government to deflect attention for the worsening economic situation and the looming bankruptcy. It also said that this decision would not silence the opposition nor would it solve Tunisia’s problems. Ghannouchi has been questioned over his party’s finances and the charge that the Islamist party had helped Islamists to travel to Syria to fight in the civil war there, which he has denied.

The United States, meanwhile, has said that the arrest of Ghannouchi and the closure of Ennahda’s offices and the ban on opposition meetings was a ‘troubling escalation’. US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said that the actions of the government against the opposition “are fundamentally at odds with the principles Tunisians adopted in a Constitution.” He also said that respect for human rights and freedom of expression were essential to “US-Tunisia friendship.”

Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir said, “Owing to his health and age, we appeal for special consideration and mercy to be accorded to Mr Rached Ghannouchi during this blessed month of Ramadan.” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he would speak to authorities in Tunisia to express concern over the arrest of Ghannouchi. “We have not yet been able to contact the authorities in Tunisia over the phone but will continue to try to reach them. If we are able to speak to them, we will tell them that we do not find this appropriate.”

Ever since President Saied had assumed extraordinary powers and abrogated the 2011 constitution in 2021, the opposition in Tunisia has been questioning his motives and described his takeover as a coup. Ghannouchi is a strong believer in a multi-party system, though the coalitions have proved to be ineffective in dealing with the problems of the country. Saied’s argument is that these political parties cannot govern Tunisia as they are involved in corruption. But Ghannouchi is firm in his belief that there is need for different political parties to exist for Tunisian democracy. He said in an opposition meeting last week, “…imagining Tunisia without this or that side…Tunisia without Ennahda, Tunisia without political Islam, without the left, or any other component, is a project for civil war.” This is an indication that the opposition is determined to opposed Saied’s attempt to do away with the political parties in an attempt to solve the economic crisis of Tunisia.

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