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Tunisia: Ennahdha offices closed, EU "worried"

Tunisia: Ennahdha offices closed, EU "worried"
This photo taken on December 31, 2021 shows a view of the offices of the   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


The Tunisian authorities on Tuesday closed the offices of the Islamo-conservative movement Ennahdha throughout the territory, the day after the arrest of its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, arousing a reaction of strong "concern" from the European Union.

"A police force came to the party's main headquarters (in Tunis) and ordered everyone inside to get out before closing it," one of the leaders of the party told AFP. Ennahdha, Riadh Chaibi .

"The police have also closed other party offices across the country and banned all meetings in these premises," he added. This measure was taken the day after party leader Rached Ghannouchi was arrested at his home in Tunis.

The EU, a key partner of Tunisia, said it was following "with great concern the latest developments" in the country, "in particular the arrest yesterday evening (Monday) of Mr. Rached Ghannouchi as well as information concerning the closure of the headquarters of the Ennahdha party in Tunis".

Brussels recalled "the importance of respecting the rights of the defense as well as the right to a fair trial". And regarding the closure of Ennahdha's premises, the European Union underlined "the fundamental principle of political pluralism", considering that all these elements were "essential for any democracy" and constituted "the basis of the European Union's partnership with Tunisia".

Since November 2012, Tunisia has benefited from the status of privileged partner of the EU, which has accompanied it in the process of democratic transition initiated after the 2011 revolution by providing it with numerous aids and facilitated access to the single European market.

Mr Ghannouchi, 81, who led the dissolved parliament, is the most high-profile opponent to be arrested since President Kais Saied 's coup seized full power in July 2021.

His arrest comes after statements reported by the media, in which Mr Ghannouchi said this weekend that Tunisia would be threatened with a "civil war" if political Islam, from which his party originated, was eliminated there.

A source at the Interior Ministry quoted by Tunisian media confirmed that Mr Ghannouchi's arrest was linked to these statements. According to Mr Chaibi, two other Ennahdha leaders, Mohamed Goumani and Belgacem Hassan, were also arrested on Monday evening.

In addition, the leader of the National Salvation Front (FSN), the main opposition coalition of which Ennahdha is a member, said that the police on Tuesday banned a press conference that his group was about to hold to react to the arrest. by Mr Ghannouchi.

"The police prevented the holding of the press conference and deployed barriers in front of the party headquarters," Ahmed Nejib Chebbi told AFP.

Since the beginning of February, the authorities have imprisoned more than 20 opponents and personalities including ex-ministers, businessmen and the owner of the most popular radio station in the country, Mosaïque FM.

President Saied, accused by the opposition of authoritarian drift, described those arrested as "terrorists", claiming that they were involved in a "conspiracy against state security".

After his coup, Mr Saied had the Constitution revised to establish an ultra-presidential system at the expense of Parliament, which no longer has any real powers, unlike the dissolved Assembly dominated by Ennahdha.

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