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Tunisia: Anti-terrorism court freezes Ennahda party leadership's bank accounts

Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi and a former prime minister are under investigation
AFP/FETHI BELAID - El líder del partido islamista tunecino Ennahda Rached Ghannouchi muestra un signo de victoria mientras llega para ser interrogado en la sede de la policía judicial en Túnez

AFP/FETHI BELAID  -   Tunisian Islamist Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi shows a victory sign as he arrives for questioning at the judicial police headquarters in Tunis.

As part of the investigation into terrorism charges against the leaders of the Islamist Ennahda party, the 23rd examining magistrate for the fight against terrorism ordered on Tuesday afternoon, 5 July, to block all the bank assets of those under investigation. Among them is the leader of the Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, along with several members of his family. 

The bank assets of Hamadi Jebali, former prime minister in the government of Moncef Marzouki, following the ouster of Ben Ali and prior to the 2014 Constitution, have also been frozen. 

The charges against Ennahda leaders stem from the alleged involvement of 33 Islamist politicians, including Ghannouchi and Jebali, in the assassination of two socialist MPs in 2013, during Marzouki's presidency and Jebali's government. 

Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi, two politicians highly critical of the Islamist Ennahda current, were shot dead as they left their homes. In 2014, Daesh-affiliated terrorist Boubakar El Hakim claimed responsibility for the murders. Tunisian justice linked the Islamist Ennahda party to these events. 

Rachid Ghannouchi
PHOTO/AP  -  President of the Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi

They are not the only politicians in trouble with the law. Elyes Fakhfakh, minister of tourism under Jebali and then prime minister for less than a year under Kaïs Saied in 2020, also sits in the dock, facing charges of tax fraud. According to the indictment, Fakhfakh failed to declare certain assets owned by him and his wife in accordance with the 2018 law. In addition, during his time in government, he also allegedly granted benefits to individuals with the aim of profiting from them afterwards. 

The Club de Madrid, an organisation that brings together former heads of state from all over the world, formally requested President Kaïs Saied to release Hamadi Jebali. Along with the Club of Madrid, other organisations accuse Saied of an authoritarian policy shift after sweeping government reforms and the dissolution of the Tunisian legislative chamber. Since the closure of the parliament, President Saied has been ruling by decree and hopes to see a new constitution succeed in a referendum on 25 July. This new constitution will bring major changes to the country, especially in the areas of the relationship between the state and Islam, the role of the president, which will be strengthened, and the legislative system. 

As for the judiciary, Saied dismissed 57 judges in early June in what he called "a purge of the judiciary". This called into question the integrity of the separation of powers in Tunisia. 

Presidente Kais Saied
REUTERS/ZOUBEIR SOUISS  -  Tunisian President Kais Saied


The constituent process and Saied's authoritarian drift were called into question by a Venice Commission report, drawn up at the behest of the EU delegation to Tunis. 

At the international level, the analysis of Tunisia is complex. From a regional point of view, its two main neighbours, Morocco and Algeria, are jostling to be the preferred ally with the best relations and friendships in the Carthage Palace. Saied's government would have more reason to get on well with Morocco, with whom it shares a closer ideological line and international positioning. The opposition, for its part, maintains relations with Qatar and Turkey.

The date of 25 July is shaping up to be the possible end of Tunisia's crossroads. Approval of the constitution in the referendum would be interpreted as popular support for Kais Saïed. Sources close to the president have stated on Tunisian national television that, should the draft Basic Law fail, Saied would leave power. If so, Tunisia risks being virtually back to square one in 2011, when the First Arab revolts toppled authoritarian leader Ben Ali. Ghannouchi could then become president, with Ennahda being the most voted party in the last elections.