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Tunisia: Police arrest two senior Ennahda leaders

Latest detentions come as police ramp up crackdown on opponents of President Kais Saied
Mondher Ounissi, then the vice president of Ennahda party, speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia on 17 April 2023.
Mondher Ounissi, then the vice president of Ennahda party, speaks during a news conference at the party headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, on 17 April 2023 (Reuters)

Tunisian police arrested two senior members of the opposition Ennahda party late on Tuesday, in the latest crackdown by Presient Kais Saied against critics.

Party officials confirmed that Mondher Ounissi, Ennahda's interim president, was detained along with Abdel Karim Harouni, who was placed under house arrest over the weekend.  

Ounissi, 56, previously served as the vice president of the party until its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, was arrested earlier this year.

Harouni, 62, heads the Shura Council, the highest-ranking body in the Ennahda party, whose members made up the largest bloc in the now suspended parliament.

The arrests comes days after Hamadi Jebali, the country's former prime minister, was detained following a raid on his home in the city of Sousse, his wife said on Monday. 

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Harouni's lawyer said on Saturday that there were no "details about the reasons for imposing house arrest".

Saied unilaterally suspended parliament and dissolved the government in July 2021, a move he marketed as a step towards "true democracy", involving a clean break with the political class, the institutions and "corrupt elites".

His critics branded the power grab, the details of which were first reported by Middle East Eye in May 2021, as a coup.

Since his consolidation of power, Tunisian authorities have targeted Saied's political opponents, including members of the Ennahda.

Earlier this year, Tunisian police also arrested Ghannouchi, one of Saied's most outspoken critics.

African court orders Tunisia to allow legal access to political prisoners
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The campaign of detentions ushered in by Saied after his power grab has led to an increasingly repressive society, and a rapidly escalating economic crisis has led to a surge in people fleeing the country along dangerous smuggling routes.

Despite promises to correct the country's downward economic trajectory, Saied has also overseen skyrocketing inflation and shortages of basic goods.

Last week, the African Court on Human and People's Rights ordered the Tunisian government to inform political detainees, their families and lawyers of the reasons for their continued detention, specifically to provide them with "adequate information and facts relating to the legal and factual basis for the detention".

The court, which is the judicial arm of the African Union, gave the Tunisian government 15 days to "eliminate all barriers" that political prisoners face, and found that the continued detention of the individuals could result in "irreparable harm" and that they are in a situation of "imminent danger".

The court also held that "the procedures followed in the arrest and imprisonment of the [detainees] are not clear, especially in terms of clarifying the charges that they are answering".

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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