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Tunisia: Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi arrested in home raid

Ennahda condemns arrest, calling it a 'very dangerous development' and calls for Ghannouchi to be released
Ghannouchi is the highest-profile and the latest member of the Ennahda party to be arrested by Tunisian police.
Ghannouchi is the highest-profile and latest member of the Ennahda party to be arrested by Tunisian police (AFP/File photo)

Tunisian police on Monday raided the home of Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi and arrested him, searching the house and telling him they would take him to a police station for questioning, according to the political party.

Ghannouchi's daughter Yusra said on Twitter that her father had been arrested during a raid on his home after the opposition leader was previously summoned by police over "laughable fabricated charges".

"My father had willingly gone to the numerous interrogations for which he was summoned by the coup’s in-justice system for laughable fabricated charges, but Saied chose to order the raiding of his house & his arrest after Sunset on the holiest night of the month of Ramadan," Yusra said on Twitter.

The Ennahda party also condemned the arrest, saying it was a "very dangerous development" and called for his immediate release.

Ghannouchi is the highest-profile and latest member of the Ennahda party to be arrested by Tunisian police. In February, senior Ennahda party leader Said Ferjani was detained, and Ali Laarayedh - the country's former prime minister - has been detained since December 2022.

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Police have this year detained leading political figures in Tunisia who oppose President Kais Saied, including other senior figures from Ennahda, which identifies itself as a Muslim democratic party.

In the past month, about 30 political activists, judges, lawyers, and the head of a radio station have been arrested and accused of conspiring against national security. Amnesty International has described the crackdown as a "politically motivated witch hunt".

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In July 2021, Saied unilaterally suspended parliament and dissolved the government, in what has been dubbed a "constitutional coup". The country has since been rife with political turmoil. Ennahda had the most seats when Saied dissolved parliament.

He subsequently ruled by decree, before pushing through a new constitution that enshrined his one-man rule.

Ghannouchi appeared in court in February after being summoned by a judge from the counter-terrorism prosecutor’s office, and said in a statement after arriving at court that Saied was attempting to suppress political opposition and muzzle free speech.

Ghannouchi, a fierce critic of Saied's power grab, has since been embroiled in investigations on money laundering and incitement to violence that critics say are politically motivated. 

Last year, a travel ban was issued against him, and his Tunisian bank accounts and those of several relatives and members of his party were frozen.

He appeared in court for questioning in July and November 2022, and members of Ennahda have been arrested as part of the ongoing investigations by the government.

Ennahdha denies all the charges against its members.

Ghannouchi previously called the trials an "invented problem" by authorities "aimed at distracting the Tunisian people from the real problems we're facing".

The recent arrests have raised concerns about a wider crackdown in Tunisia on dissent and prompted calls from the opposition, activists, and the UN Human Rights Office for their immediate release.

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