Two top officials in Tunisia’s main opposition Ennahda party have been arrested, the party said, in the latest targeting of opponents of President Kais Saied.
The interim head of Ennahda, Mondher Ounissi, was detained by police on Tuesday and, minutes afterwards, so was Abdel Karim Harouni, who was placed this week under house arrest, the party said, according to the Reuters news agency.
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Ounissi’s arrest follows the publication of audio recordings on social media this week, attributed to Ounissi, in which he allegedly accused some officials in his party of seeking to control Ennahda and receiving illegal funds.
Tunisia’s Public Prosecution Office on Monday opened an investigation into the recordings. Ounissi said in a video on his Facebook page that the recordings were fabricated.
The second detained official, Harouni, heads the Shura Council, the highest-ranking body in Ennahda, which was the biggest political party in a parliament closed by President Saied in 2021.
On Sunday, the opposition party said the house arrest of Harouni “comes in the context of the arrest of the historical leaders of the Ennahda Party, the closure of all its headquarters, and threat to its leaders and activists”.
The police earlier this year arrested Ennahda’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, the most prominent critic of Saied, as well as several other party officials.
The 81-year-old Ghannouchi was reportedly arrested on a warrant by counterterrorism prosecutors as part of an investigation into “provocative” comments.
Ennahda and its supporters say the charges are politically motivated and the latest in a broad campaign that has seen other party officials, including an ex-prime minister, arrested.
Last week, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights ordered the Tunisian government to “eliminate all barriers” and give the country’s political prisoners, including Ghannouchi, access to legal representatives and doctors.
The court also ordered Tunisia’s government to inform the detainees, their families and lawyers of the reasons for their detention, and to provide all information related to their arrests.
The court, which has jurisdiction to hear complaints concerning human rights violations in member states of the African Union that have ratified the court’s charter, gave Tunisia 15 days to implement its order and respond.
Tunisian authorities have also banned meetings at all Ennahda offices and police closed all party offices in what critics see as growing repression by Saied, whom they accuse of carrying out a coup after he closed the elected parliament in 2021 and moved to rule by decree before rewriting the constitution.
Saied has described those detained as “terrorists, traitors and criminals”.