Skip to main content

Tunisia arrests Ennahda figure Said Ferjani as crackdown escalates

Ferjani was named in a document leaked to Middle East Eye in 2021 that outlined how Kais Saied should seize power
A billboard depicting Tunisia's President Kais Saied hangs on the side of a building in the east-central city of Kairouan, 26 July 2022 (AFP)

Tunisian security forces arrested another prominent opposition figure on Monday, in an escalating campaign of detentions targeting rivals of President Kais Saied.

Senior Ennahda party leader Said Ferjani was detained in the capital Tunis with police refusing to indicate when the 68-year-old would be released, his daughter Kaouther said on social media.

"Tunisian police are holding my dad. We hoped they'd release him after hours of interrogation as they have previously, but this time, they’re keeping him," Kaouther said on Twitter. 

"The last time he went to prison, he was 32; he was tortured and paralysed. He's 68 now; how many times will he pay for his beliefs?"

More than a dozen opposition figures have been arrested in recent weeks, including judges, politicians, activists, businessmen, and the head of a leading independent radio station.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Among the arrests include two judges, the head of Tunisia's main independent news outlet, and a senior UGTT labour federation official.

The US State Department has said it is "deeply concerned" by the string of arrests, while the UN Human Rights Office has called for their immediate release.

Earlier this week, Saied, who seized control of the judiciary last year, said that those arrested were "terrorists" who had "plotted against state security".

On Wednesday he threatened judges handling the cases, saying "anyone who dares to acquit [those arrested] is their accomplice".

African Union condemns ‘racial statements’ from Tunisian president
Read More »

In 2021, a leaked document obtained by Middle East Eye outlined how Saied planned to seize control of Tunisia in a bloodless coup.

The document stated that Ferjani would be among several political figures placed under house arrest to help Saied take control of the country.

Ferjani, a longtime member of the Ennahda party, was previously arrested by late dictator Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 1987. He spent 18 months in prison, where interrogators reportedly broke his back and fractured his vertebra with an iron rod.

But after a popular revolution ousted Ben Ali from power in 2011, Ferjani returned to Tunisia from exile in London, and was elected as an MP for Ennahda, serving as a party adviser.

Tunisia has been engulfed in political and economic crises since July 2021, when Saied unilaterally suspended parliament and dissolved the government in what has been dubbed a "constitutional coup". 

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

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.