Tunisia: Banged up opposition leader on hunger strike


Banged up Tunisian opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi began a hunger strike on February 19 in solidarity with the imprisoned dissidents of the Saied regime making similar protests, Reuters reported. 

The 82-year-old Ennahda Party (the country’s main opposition force) leader was arrested in 2023 for “incitement against the police” and “plotting to undermine state security”. He was sentenced to one year in jail. 

To add insult to injury, Ghannouchi was also handed a three-year prison sentence earlier this month in a separate case on charges of “accepting external financing”. 

Kais Saied’s rise to power has turned him into a raging despot and in recent times, around 20 political figures have been jailed on trumped up charges.  

On February 12, six opposition figures, who have now been behind bars for a year, went on a hunger strike.  

The resilient half dozen were, politician Khayam Turki, Secretary-General of the Republican Party Abdelhamid Jlassi, lawyer and former Secretary-General of the Tayyar Party Issam Chebbi, lawyer Ghazi Chaouachi, lawyer Ridha Belhadj and a prominent figure in the National Salvation Front Jaouhar Ben Mbarek. 

READ: Opposition figure latest to be jailed in Tunisia

In late September 2023, Mr Ghannouchi embarked on a three-day hunger strike once again in accord with fellow jailed dissenters. 

Over recent years rights groups have raised concerns over the disregard of citizens’ rights by the country’s supremo. 

UK-based NGO Amnesty International have found that, “President Kaïs Saied continued efforts to concentrate power in his hands following his power grab in 2021.  

“He also issued decree-laws to dismantle key institutional safeguards for human rights, notably attacking judicial independence and the right to freedom of expression.  

“Authorities used unlawful force to disperse protesters, and targeted high-profile critics and perceived enemies of the president with prosecutions and arbitrary detentions.” 

Following the recent announcement of the Ghannouchi protest, his legal team noted in a statement, “while he is fighting the ’empty stomach’ battle, Ghannouchi calls on Tunisians to adhere to a democratic Tunisia that includes everyone on the basis of freedom and the independence of the judiciary”. 

The President’s dismissive attitude towards democratic norms has caused widespread political apathy – as voters feel duped – emphasised by dismal turnouts in elections. 

Reuters/ Amnesty International 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

[mc4wp_form id="206"]