| 21 June 2024, Friday |

Tunisian opposition leader Ghannouchi starts a three-day hunger strike in prison

Jailed Rached Ghannouchi, the head of the opposition in Tunisia and a bitter opponent of President Kais Saied, has started a three-day hunger strike in support of other opposition leaders who are detained, his Islamist Ennahda party announced on Friday.

Ghannouchi, 82, was given a year in prison in May after being found guilty of inciting a riot and planning an attack on state security. This year, more than 20 additional opposition figures have been imprisoned.

They say Saied’s shutting down of the elected parliament in 2021 and moves to rule by decree amounted to a coup. Saied, who enshrined his new constitutional powers in a referendum with a low turnout last year, has denied his actions were a coup and said they were needed to save Tunisia from years of chaos.

An Ennahda party statement said its leader had launched the three-day action to support fellow jailed opposition figures who are protesting at what they say is unjust imprisonment.

Jawher Ben Mbarak, a prominent opposition figure who has been detained for more than seven months, began an open-ended hunger strike this week, arguing that his jailing was politically motivated.

Saied has called his critics criminals, traitors and terrorists and warned that any judge who freed them would be considered to be abetting them.

Ghannouchi, a political prisoner and exile before the 2011 revolution that brought democracy, was parliament speaker from the 2019 election and his party was the biggest in the legislature until Saied sent tanks to shut it down in 2021.

His lawyer said the charges against him stem from a funeral eulogy he gave last year for a member of his Ennahda party when he said the deceased “did not fear a ruler or tyrant, he only feared God.”

Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

  • Reuters