Rached Ghannouchi and Ali Larayedh appeared at a police station after being summoned by the ‘counter-terrorism’ police.
Rached Ghannouchi, president of Tunisia’s dissolved parliament and chairman of the Ennahdha party, appeared at a police station after being summoned to answer questions about what his party has said are “terrorism”-related charges.
Dozens of protesters, including lawyers and political activists, gathered this Monday in front of the building in the capital, Tunis, to demonstrate against the questioning of Ghannouchi, who has denounced the seizure of broad powers by President Kais Saied.
“The police state is finished. We are with you Ghannouchi”, some of them chanted. Others shouted “Freedom!”
Tunisian authorities have not released any statement on the reason for Ghannouchi’s summons.
Ennahdha officials said on Saturday that Ghannouchi and another party member, former Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, would be questioned by police for “sending jihadists to Syria”, but without giving details.
Ghannouchi has been a key player in Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolution that brought democracy, with his party joining several successive coalition governments.
When Saied seized most of the powers last summer and shut down parliament, Ghannouchi accused him of an anti-democratic coup, something the president has denied.
‘New step towards exclusion’
Speaking to the Reuters news agency on Saturday night, Ghannouchi said the call was “a new attempt to attack opponents and a new step towards exclusion.”
Larayedh said he was not officially told why he was summoned, but word leaked out that it was related to sending fighters to Syria.
“I was against this phenomenon and took steps to limit it,” Larayedh said.
Ennahdha’s spokesman, Imad al-Khamiri, told Al Jazeera that the two were brought in only to distract the public from rising prices and economic concerns.
In a statement, Ennahdha accused Saied of creating “malicious cases” against the opposition.
The party added that it would reveal more details at a news conference expected to be held later on Monday.
Secular parties have accused Ennahdha of being lenient towards armed groups, something the party has long denied.
On the other hand, five Tunisian parties announced on Monday their boycott of the next parliamentary elections scheduled for December. The vote was called by Saied, who still retains the support of some Tunisians who see him as a bulwark against political elites whom they blame for the country’s poor economic conditions.
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