Tunisian court bans travel for Islamist party chief, others

·2 min read

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A court in Tunisia has issued a travel ban on 34 people, including the head of the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party, all suspected of involvement in an alleged parallel security service reportedly put into place after the 2011 Tunisian revolution.

Ennahdha party chief Rachid Ghannouchi and 33 others have been targeted in an investigation into the alleged service, dubbed the “secret apparatus,” which has been blamed by some for the still-unsolved murders of two leftist militants in 2013.

The spokeswoman for the court in Ariana, Fatma Bougottaya, claimed on Friday night that the suspects had illegally gained access to information concerning state institutions and allegedly shared it with someone with no legitimate reason to have it, which amounts to an abuse of power. She did not elaborate.

The travel bans were issued on orders of Justice Minister Leila Jaffel, the court spokeswoman told Radio Mosaique.

Ghannouchi, who also headed Tunisia’s parliament — which was suspended then dissolved by Tunisian President Kais Saied — said in a statement that the “so-called secret apparatus is pre-fabricated” and represents a “falsification of facts.” He denounced “a deliberate operation” by authorities “with a goal of distracting the public from true problems” like the political and economic crisis and social problems in the North African country.

He denounced “continued pressure exercised by President Saied” on the judiciary, which he has ordered to hunt out corruption.

Ghannouchi, an adamant adversary of the president, has denounced the exceptional and controversial measures taken by Saied last July 25 as a “coup d’etat,” claiming the goal was to restore a dictatorship in Tunisia.

Saied conferred on himself sweeping powers. Besides dissolving parliament, Saied fired the prime minister and gave himself the power to rule by decree — measures the president claimed were needed to “save the country from imminent peril” and fight widespread corruption.

Under pressure from Tunisia’s allies, who are concerned about democratic backsliding in Tunisia, Saied has laid out a roadmap that foresees organizing a referendum on July 25 on political reforms to amend the constitution, then holding a parliamentary election on Dec. 17.

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