Tunisia, Tunisia – Rached Ghannouchi is behind bars this week, leaving the Tunisian opposition leader’s daughter worried about his health and his party worried about what happens next.
“They insisted that he could be held for 48 hours without a lawyer,” Yusra Ghannouchi said, detailing her father’s initial interrogation on Monday.
Tunisian President Keith Saeed has chosen Ramadan, one of the holiest nights in the Islamic calendar, the 27th of Ramadan, in his latest move against the Tunisian opposition. Ghannouchi was detained, and the offices of his Ennahda movement, which he called a “Muslim Democratic Party,” and the opposition alliance, the National Salvation Front, were closed.
The ostensible reason for Ghannouchi’s detention was a video in which he made comments warning of a possible civil war if various political currents in Tunisia, including political Islam and leftists, were excluded.
In response, authorities charged Ghannouchi with “conspiracy to endanger national security” and held him in prison for pretrial detention.
Yusra Ghannouchi said her father’s words were taken out of context to create allegations.
“My father said that one of the main successes of the National Salvation Front was to transcend political and ideological polarization, [he said:] “Anyone who imagines a Tunisia without this or that group, a Tunisia without the Ba’ath party, without political Islam, without the left or any part of it, sets the stage for a civil war,” Yusra Ghannouchi said.
Tunisian political commentator Hatem Nafti said Saeed had used Rached Ghannouchi’s raising the prospect of civil war to justify his arrest, which had been used to crush opposition under former Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
“Ben Ali wiped out the Islamists under the pretext of preventing a civil war,” Nafti said.
Saeed’s supporters also seized on the comments.
“Personally, I am for [Ghannouchi’s] Arrest,” said Oussama Aoudit, leader of the nationalist Echaab party. “It was an implicit call for this guerrilla to go out and start a civil war.He wants to destroy everyone involved [political] Actions since July 25 ”
Saeed, who became president in 2019 with the support of the Ba’ath Party, dissolved the elected parliament on July 25, 2021, and has since seized more powers for himself, including amending the country’s constitution. His opponents denounced his move as part of a coup.
Ahmed Gaaloul, Ghannouchi’s chief adviser, told Al Jazeera he feared the latest episode was another step towards a complete ban on the Ba’ath party.
“There is no systematic harassment of party members… [but they live] In a horrific state of mind,” Gaaloul said.
“Everything you send or receive, even to journalists, could be used as evidence of some kind of conspiracy,” he added.
a simple goal
Monica Marks, an assistant professor of Middle East politics at New York University Abu Dhabi, said Saeed took advantage of Gannucci’s decline in popularity in recent years, especially among many Tunisian secularists.
“[They have] Accepted a series of ostensibly authoritarian actions by Saeed since July 25, 2021,” Marks said.
Marks added that Ghannouchi’s arrest was “the red meat that Saeed’s supporters have been craving for some time. It bought him some time, especially on the Tunisian left, who have been skeptical of Ghannouchi for decades”.
While Ghannouchi, a former longtime exile who only returned to Tunisia after Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011, has been popular in some quarters, a former senior official of the secular Nidaa Tounes party believes it will only add to the international profile Tunisia is heading towards. A dark path.
“This path will strengthen the isolation of the Tunisian regime both internally and externally, and will lead Tunisia into the unknown,” said Khalid Chuquette, who is also a minister. “It’s a dangerous sign that things are moving in a direction that combats political pluralism and restricts public liberties and human rights.”
Chouket pointed out to Al Jazeera that Saeed, instead of following through on his promises to fight corruption and improve social welfare, has focused on apprehending political opponents, “creating an image that scares domestic and foreign investors, in addition to continuing divisive hate speech.” Tunisian”.
At the same time, Marks said Western countries were too focused on cracking down on immigration and the threat of Russian and Chinese bases in the Mediterranean to “not promote political pluralism or support human rights” in Tunisia.
“Saeed’s populist project is the end of politics,” Natfi said. “This is not just the end of political parties, but also the end of civil society, associations and trade unions.”