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Tunisia arrests top Ennahdha party official

Noureddine Bhiri is a close ally of Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi and has served as justice minister in the past   -  
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The deputy chairman of Ennahdha Noureddine Bhiri, close to Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist party and bête noire of the head of state, was arrested Friday, sources said.

"Civilian agents aboard two cars arrested Noureddine Bhiri as he was leaving his home in El Manar with his wife," said lawyer Samir Dilou, a member of parliament who resigned from Ennahdha, to AFP.

According to the same source, Mr. Bhiri, a powerful figure within the movement, was "brutally arrested and taken to an unknown destination. The plainclothes agents also seized the cell phone of his wife Saïda Akremi, a lawyer by profession.

No official source was available to give details on the reasons for the arrest.

In a statement, Ennahdha confirmed the arrest of Mr. Bhiri, also former Minister of Justice, denouncing "a kidnapping and a dangerous precedent that marks the entry of the country into the tunnel of dictatorship.

Ennahdha is at the heart of a tug of war with President Kais Saied since his coup de force on July 25 and his decision to suspend the parliament that the party controlled for a decade.

In its statement, Ennahdha denounced "the liquidation of opponents outside the law.

Since the end of July, several political figures and opponents have denounced a "coup d'état", warning that President Saied is trying to settle scores with those they refer to in his speeches as "enemies", without ever mentioning them by name.

On December 22, former President Moncef Marzouki, a fierce critic of Mr. Saied who lives in France, was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison for "undermining state security abroad" after publicly criticizing the Tunisian government from Paris.

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