Tunisian police arrested three prominent officials of the main opposition Ennahda party on Tuesday, hours after they detained party leader Rached Ghannouchi, the most prominent critic of President Kais Saied, a lawyer and officials said.
Lawyer Monia Bouali told Reuters that the officials arrested are Mohamed Goumani, Belkacem Hassan and Mohammed Chnaiba. Officials in Ennahda confirmed the arrests.
Police raided Ennahda party headquarters early on Tuesday and evacuated all present to start a search that will take days, after showing a judicial warrant, party officials said.
Police have this year detained leading political figures who accuse Saied of what they call a coup after closing the elected parliament in 2021 and his move to rule by decree before rewriting the constitution.
The earlier arrests, that have led to charges of conspiring against state security, have drawn statements of concern from the U.S. and rights groups.
An interior ministry official said Ghannouchi had been brought in for questioning and his house searched on the orders of the public prosecutor investigating “inciting statements”.
Ghannouchi’s lawyers said that they had no idea about the course of investigations.
For its part, the party announced on Monday in a Facebook post that Ghannouchi had been taken to an “unknown destination” without respecting the basic legal procedures and said it “condemns this very dangerous development.”
It demanded releasing him immediately and halting the arrest of opposition politicians.
The statement also urged the “free people” to stand united against these oppressive practices that violate the rights and freedoms of the opposition politicians.
Ghannouchi said in an opposition meeting on Saturday, “Tunisia without Ennahda, without political Islam, without the left, or any other component, is a project for civil war”.
The 81-year-old, who was in exile in the 1990s and returned during Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that brought democracy, said those who “celebrated the coup are extremists and terrorists”.