Written by Piero Messina
Tunisian President Kais Saied had promised an all-out struggle in Ennadha, the political movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. After attempting to open a court case against Ennadha, on suspicion of terrorism, now the executive headed by the president – which since 25 July 2021 has controlled all levers of power in the land of jasmine – has now taken action. On the night of December 31, Interior Ministry officials in civilian clothes arrested Bhiri, vice president of Ennadha and former Minister of Justice in Tunisia from 2011 to 2012. Bhiri is accused of terrorism.
According to Ennadha, it would not be an arrest but a real kidnapping, carried out by security agents in civilian clothes. According to what emerged, during the kidnapping, Bhiri’s wife, lawyer Saida al Akrimi, was allegedly attacked while opposing her husband’s kidnapping. Ennadha “strongly denounces this dangerous precedent which marks the country’s entry into the tunnel of tyranny and the oppression of political opponents by the coup regime”.
President Kais Saied, accused by the moderate Islamic party Ennahda of having orchestrated a coup d’état with the freezing of parliament on 25 July, has promised to defend the rights and freedoms won in the 2011 Tunisian revolution.
Ennahda, which has the most seats in the suspended parliament, was banned before the revolution due to its ties to Islamic extremism, but has since become the most influential party and member of successive coalition governments. Due to the severe economic crisis and a political system paralyzed by inter-party power plays and corruption, support for Ennahda has declined and, although it came first in the 2019 parliamentary elections, it won far fewer votes than in previous years. After Saied’s speech in July, several senior politicians and company executives were arrested or subjected to prosecution, often for corruption offenses.
Tunisian Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine justified on Monday the arrest of Noureddine Bhiri, with “suspicions of terrorism”, assuring that Bhiri is hospitalized because he refuses food and medicine, and that he is “well treated”.
According to a delegation from the Authority for the Prevention of Torture (INPT, independent authority) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who visited him, Noureddine Bhiri has been hospitalized since Sunday “under close surveillance in cardiology” because he is suffering from various chronic diseases, diabetes and hypertension.
Bhiri is one of the founders of Ennadha. The Tunisian politician had already been arrested in the mid-eighties during the period of the Bourghiba presidency.