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Tunisia: Ennahda says senior official Noureddine Bhiri released

The party's deputy head had been bundled into a car by plainclothes police officers on 31 December
Bhiri, who suffers from several pre-existing health conditions, including diabetes and hypertension, was transferred to hospital on 2 January after going on hunger strike (AFP)

Noureddine Bhairi, a senior official from Ennahda, the biggest party in Tunisia's suspended parliament, was released from more than two months of detention early on Tuesday, his party said.

The 64-year-old, who had mounted a hunger strike while in detention, arrived at his house at dawn in an ambulance, video showed. The footage appeared to show Bhiri had lost a lot of weight.

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Bhiri, the deputy head of Ennahda, was detained due to alleged illegal submission of passports and nationality documents and a suspicion of terrorism, the interior minister said in January.

Ennahda dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

Bhiri was the party’s first senior official to be detained after President Kais Saied dismissed parliament and seized governing powers in July in a move widely seen as a coup.

He was bundled into a car by plainclothes police officers on 31 December and held in undisclosed locations for several hours.

Bhiri, who suffers from several pre-existing health conditions, including diabetes and hypertension, was transferred to hospital on 2 January after going on hunger strike.  

In the same month, the United Nations expressed concern over human rights abuses in Tunisia and demanded Bhiri be either charged or freed.

Ghannouchi reaction

"Thank God for freedom, we hope to get Tunisia out of the stage of injustice, revenge," Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda and the speaker of the suspended parliament said after Bhiri's release.

The interior ministry said it had lifted what it called Bhiri's house arrest after the appointment of a new Supreme Judicial Council which would allow the judiciary to complete the investigation into his case.

Saied on Monday appointed a temporary replacement for the country's top judicial council, a body he dissolved last month in what his opponents called a move to consolidate his power.

Since Saied's July intervention, several senior politicians and business leaders have been detained or subjected to legal prosecution, often involving cases of corruption or defamation.

Rights groups have criticised some of those arrests and the use of military courts to hear such cases.

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