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Saïed steps up attacks on the opposition

Deepening political repression prompts European Union to voice 'great concern' about the President's autocratic methods

President Kaïs Saïed is stepping up his crackdown on opposition politicians following the arrest and detention of Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda party.

Both the headquarters of Ennahda and the National Salvation Front were searched and seized by the Tunisian security forces. The authorities have also banned all meetings at all Ennahda offices around the country, as well as all National Salvation Front offices in the Greater Tunis region.

The 81-year-old Ghannouchi was arrested and taken for interrogation by security services on 17 April.

Ghannouchi's detention is believed to relate to a video in which he warned about the potential for civil war if political Islam and leftists were excluded from a national dialogue aimed at settling the country's political crisis.

He has been charged with 'conspiracy against state security'. On 20 April the investigating judge issued an imprisonment warrant against Ghannouchi that will keep him in pre-trial detention.

The move has prompted the European Commission to say that it was 'following with great concern the latest developments in Tunisia' – the EU's most critical rhetoric towards the Saïed government since the president suspended parliament in July 2021 – but at home, where public support for Ennahda has been in steady decline over the past decade, some nationalist and leftist politicians have welcomed Ghannouchi's arrest and detention.

That may encourage Saïed to calculate that picking fights with those who he has described as 'the enemies of Tunisia' and with the International Monetary Fund over the terms of a planned $1.9 billion bailout will shore up his dwindling support (AC Vol 64 No 7, Saïed's racial crackdown deepens economic woes and Dispatches 11/4/23, President Saïed picks a fight with the Fund).

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