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Tunisia: Ennahda deputy head Noureddine Bhiri arrested by security forces

Bhiri is the first senior Ennahda official to be arrested since President Kais Saied seized control of the country
Noureddine Bhiri was reportedly arrested by plain-clothes security forces and taken to an unknown destination (Facebook)

Tunisia's Ennahda party said on Friday morning that security forces have arrested its deputy head, Noureddine Bhiri.

Bhiri is the first senior Ennahda official to be arrested since July, when President Kais Saied seized control of state powers and suspended parliament, in moves the party and other critics labelled a coup.

"The movement's vice-president and member of parliament Noureddine Bhiri was abducted this morning," Ennahda said in a statement.

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Bhiri's whereabouts remain unknown, and several Tunisian lawyers staged a protest on Friday afternoon, calling on authorities to reveal his location.

Ennahda said the Tunisian security forces that seized him were wearing civilian clothing.

“During the abduction, security forces rebuked Bhiri’s wife Saeeda al-Akrimi,” the statement added.

It also said that Bhiri's "abduction" signals that Tunisia is entering a new political era, where the country is heading "into a tunnel of tyranny and the liquidation of political opponents outside the framework of the law by the coup regime, after its failure to manage the ruling affairs”.

Bhiri, 63, is a lawyer and was serving in the now-suspended parliament. Between 2011-2013 he was minister of justice. The speaker of the parliament is Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda's leader.

According to Ennahda, Saeeda al-Akrimi, who is also a lawyer, was "battered" by security forces during the arrest. She has filed a complaint against the "kidnapping and detaining" of Bhiri in front of their Tunis home. She accused Saied of personally orchestrating the arrest.

Saied seized power, in a plot leaked to Middle East Eye two months earlier, citing skyrocketing unemployment, rampant corruption and the coronavirus pandemic as reasons to suspend parliament, sack the prime minister and grant himself prosecutorial powers.

There was no immediate comment from Tunisian authorities on Bhiri's arrest.

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