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Tunisian authorities close opposition Ennahdha party headquarters | News

The move comes a day after the arrest of party leader Gannucci in an ongoing crackdown on opposition forces in Tunisia.

Tunisian authorities have closed the headquarters of the opposition Ba’ath Party, a day after leader Rached Ghannouchi was arrested, party officials said.

Ahmed Gaaloul, an adviser to Ghannouchi, told Al Jazeera that police were conducting a search of the building on Tuesday and it would be closed for at least three days.

“A police force showed up at the main headquarters of the party (Tunisia) and ordered everyone there to leave before it was closed,” Riadh Chaibi, a senior party official, told AFP.

“The police also closed down other offices of the party elsewhere in the country and banned any meetings at these venues,” Chaibi added.

Ghannouchi, the longtime Ennahdha leader, was arrested late Monday at his home in the capital, Tunisia, the latest in a string of opposition arrests.

A Baath official told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Ghannouchi had been taken to hospital, but gave no further details.

The Baath Party, a party that calls itself the “Muslim Democratic Party,” is the largest party in Tunisia’s parliament until President Keith Saeed dissolves it in July 2021.

Authorities in the North African country have arrested more than 20 political opponents and celebrities since early February.

They include politicians, former ministers, businessmen, trade unionists and the boss of Tunisia’s most popular radio station, Mosaique FM.

Saeed claimed the detainees were “terrorists” involved in “conspiracies against national security”.

Ennahdha Vice President Mondher Lounissi told a news conference late Monday that Ghannouchi had been taken to the police camp for questioning and his lawyer was not allowed to attend.

He warned before his arrest that Tunisia would face a civil war if any political forces in the country – including political Islamists and leftists – were excluded.

Tunisian media, citing sources from the Ministry of the Interior, confirmed that Ganucci’s arrest was linked to the remarks.

“A new phase of the crisis”

Ghannucci was the head of Tunisia’s parliament before Saeed dismissed it and seized broad powers in a series of actions opponents have dubbed “coups”.

Saeed’s opponents have accused him of restoring dictatorship in Tunisia, the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East more than a decade ago.

Since his dramatic power grab, Saeed has ruled by decree and last year forced through a constitution that gave his office unlimited powers and strangled parliament.

Human rights groups have criticized the arrests, which have targeted leaders of the National Salvation Front (NSF), the main opposition coalition that includes the Baath Party.

“The arrest of the leader of the country’s most important political party, who has consistently demonstrated a commitment to peaceful political action, marks a new phase in the crisis,” NSF Director Ahmed Nejib Chebbi said late Monday.

“This is blind revenge on the opponent,” he added.

Ghannouchi appeared in court in late February on terrorism-related charges after being accused of calling police a “tyrant”.

Ghannouchi was exiled for more than 20 years under the late dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but returned after the country’s 2011 uprising to become a dominant figure in Tunisian politics.

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