Tunisian court bans travel of Islamist party leader and others

Tunisia — A court in Tunisia has barred 34 people from entering the country, including the head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party. They are all suspected of being involved in an alleged parallel security service that was reportedly set up after the 2011 Tunisian revolution.

Ennahdha party chief Rachid Ghannouchi and 33 others have been targeted by an investigation into an alleged service dubbed the “secret apparatus” that some blame for the still-unsolved killings of two left-wing activists in 2013.

Ariana court spokeswoman Fatma Bugottaya said on Friday evening that the suspects illegally gained access to information about state institutions and allegedly gave it to someone without a legal basis for obtaining it, which amounted to an abuse of power. She didn’t elaborate.

The travel ban was ordered by Justice Minister Leila Yaffel, a court spokeswoman told Radio Mosaique.

Ghannouchi, who also chaired the Tunisian parliament, which was temporarily suspended and then dissolved by Tunisian President Qais Syed, said in a statement that “the so-called secret apparatus is prefabricated” and is a “falsification of facts.” He denounced the “deliberate operation” by the authorities “to distract the public from real problems” such as the political and economic crisis and social problems in the North African country.

He denounced the “continued pressure exerted by President Syed” on the judiciary, which he ordered to hunt down corruption.

Ghannouchi, a staunch opponent of the president, denounced Said’s exceptional and controversial move on July 25 last year as a “coup d’état”, saying the goal was to restore a dictatorship in Tunisia.

Said endowed himself with broad powers. In addition to dissolving parliament, Said sacked the prime minister and gave himself the right to rule by decree, steps the president claimed were necessary to “save the country from imminent danger” and fight widespread corruption.

Under pressure from Tunisian allies who are concerned about a retreat from democracy in Tunisia, Said laid out a roadmap that calls for a July 25 referendum on political reforms to amend the constitution, followed by parliamentary elections on December 17.


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