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Tunisia detains opposition chief Rachid Ghannouchi amid crackdown Lalrp

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Tunisian safety forces arrested the chief of the principle opposition celebration Monday night time and shuttered its headquarters, escalating a crackdown on the president’s critics on this previously authoritarian North African nation, which is veering once more towards one-man rule.

About 100 plainclothes law enforcement officials raided the house of Rachid Ghannouchi, the 81-year-old head of the average Islamist Ennahda celebration, on Monday night, simply as he was sitting down with household to interrupt the Ramadan quick, his daughter, Yusra Ghannouchi, mentioned in an interview.

The officers spent two hours combing the home, rifling via papers and outdated suitcase earlier than they whisked Ghannouchi
away with out saying the place they had been taking him or why he was being detained, she mentioned.

His legal professionals have since realized Ghannouchi is being held at a navy facility in Tunis, the capital, apparently on terrorism expenses. The legal professionals had been informed they can’t converse with Ghannouchi till 48 hours after his arrest, below the nation’s anti-terrorism regulation, in keeping with an announcement from Ennahda.

The arrest of Ghannouchi, a outstanding and polarizing determine in Tunisian politics for half a century, is a significant step, even amid wave of arrests focusing on President Kais Saied’s opponents in current months.

Ghannouchi was speaker of the Tunisian parliament earlier than Saied dissolved the physique final yr. He has been a vocal critic of Saied and his energy seize, which critics describe as a coup.

On July 25, 2021, Saied dismissed the nation’s prime minister and froze parliament — strikes initially celebrated by many Tunisians fed up with the polarized and dysfunctional legislature and the federal government’s incapability to show round a struggling financial system. However these measures proved to be the prelude to a wider rollback of democratic establishments in the one democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring.

Since then, Saied has prolonged his management over the judiciary and pushed via a brand new structure that consolidates energy within the president’s palms. In current months, the crackdown on his opponents has ratcheted up, with authorities arresting activists, judges, journalists and politicians from throughout the political spectrum.

Ghannouchi’s celebration, in an announcement, referred to as his arrest a “harmful growth” and demanded his launch.

Authorities additionally arrested three different Ennahda officers, and searched the home of one other of Ghannouchi’s daughters Monday night time. Safety forces raided the celebration’s headquarters in Tunis, the capital, initially with out a warrant, Ennahda mentioned in an announcement. Police knowledgeable celebration officers the constructing could be closed for at the least three days because the search continues.

The celebration mentioned a leaked doc, circulated on social media, signifies authorities have issued an order to ban all conferences at Ennahda’s workplaces across the nation, in addition to the Tunis-area workplaces of the Nationwide Salvation Entrance — a coalition of Saied opponents that features Ennahda. The Washington Put up was unable to confirm the authenticity of the doc.

Nidhal Ezzaier, a spokesman for the Tunisian embassy in Washington, mentioned in an announcement Tuesday the federal government “didn’t ban political events and has no intention of doing so.”

The arrests are “one more intensification of repression in Tunisia’s new dictatorship,” mentioned Monica Marks, an assistant professor at New York College Abu Dhabi.

Tunisia’s official information company reported late Monday night time that Ghannouchi had been detained below an arrest warrant issued by a counterterrorism prosecutor, on “incitement” expenses.

Tunisian media reported the fees had been linked to remarks Ghannouchi made throughout a gathering with political allies over the weekend, wherein he accused Saied and his supporters of laying the groundwork for civil battle.

“Tunisia with out numerous factions, Tunisia with out Ennahda, Tunisia with out political Islam, Tunisia with out the left, with none of its [political] elements, is a venture for civil battle,” he said, calling such an exclusionary method a “crime.”

Yusra Ghannouchi mentioned these feedback had been misconstrued as threatening civil battle.

Ghannouchi has beforehand been summoned, and appeared voluntarily, for questioning by the judiciary on suspicion of cash laundering and terrorism financing, allegations Yusra Ghannouchi referred to as “clearly politically motivated and fabricated.”

However the night raid in the course of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan marked a brand new and jarring flip of occasions for the household, she mentioned. They’ve been unable to see or converse with Ghannouchi since his arrest.

The celebration mentioned Ghannouchi has refused to talk to interrogators till his legal professionals are current, however police stored him in an interrogation room sitting in a chair final night time.

“He’s 81 years outdated, he suffers from hypertension and that is the month of Ramadan — he’s most likely fasting,” Yusra Ghannouchi mentioned. “We’re very nervous and we would like the situations of his detention to be revealed.”

Nonetheless making the case for Islam and democracy in a Tunisia battered by crises

Ezzaier, the Tunisian embassy spokesman, mentioned the embassy didn’t have many particulars in regards to the case.

“What we are able to verify is that the arrest of Mr. Ghannouchi is being dealt with by the Justice system as we converse and that the manager department can not intervene on this course of,” he mentioned in an emailed assertion.

The European Union’s overseas affairs department condemned Ghannouchi’s arrest and the closure of Ennahda’s headquarters, calling for due course of and the safety of political pluralism.

The regulation professor who got down to dismantle Tunisia’s democracy

Ennahda, a thorn within the facet of Tunisia’s former dictators — in addition to many non-Islamists after the 2011 revolution — has come below specific scrutiny amid Saied’s crackdown. In December, Saied jailed the celebration’s number-two chief, former prime minister Ali Laarayedh, on terrorism expenses that worldwide rights group Human Rights Watch dismissed as politically motivated.

Below the previous dictatorship, the average Islamist motion confronted repression. A lot of its leaders, together with Ghannouchi, spent years in jail. After the Arab Spring revolution, Ennahda emerged as the most important celebration in Tunisia. But it surely additionally attracted fierce critics, and since Saied’s energy seize, the Tunisian opposition has remained fragmented.

Ghannouchi himself is a polarizing determine. Marks, the Tunisia analyst, mentioned his arrest “represents the juiciest piece of purple meat that Saied might throw at his base.”

Earlier arrests of opposition figures didn’t provoke important penalties from Western capitals, a sign that Western companions are “prepared to wheel and cope with the Saied regime” on migration, counterterrorism and stop Russian and Chinese language encroachment in Tunisia, Marks mentioned.

As political repression in Tunisia mounts, “we haven’t seen a vocal or unified outcry from Tunisian society writ giant or from Western democracies,” she mentioned.