The historic leader of the Islamo-conservative Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, began a three-day hunger strike on Friday September 29 to denounce his detention and to express his “support” for other “political prisoners” in Tunisia, his movement announced to the AFP.

Incarcerated since April 17, Mr. Ghannouchi, 82, “decided to begin a three-day hunger strike to denounce arbitrary and unfounded political prosecutions against opponents,” said Imed Khemiri, spokesperson for ‘Ennahda. “It is also in support of the hunger strike started by Jawhar Ben Mbarek”, a known opponent of the left, responsible for the National Salvation Front (FSN), the main opposition coalition in Tunisia.

Mr. Ben Mbarek, a virulent critic of President Kaïs Saïed arrested on February 24, has been on a hunger strike for four days to denounce his “unjust” detention, according to his sister, lawyer Dalila Masaddek. Mr. Mbarek has started “an indefinite hunger strike until this injustice is lifted,” Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, president of the FSN, declared at a press conference on Friday.

The most famous opponent imprisoned

“Faced with the determination of those in power to dismiss opponents through unfounded legal cases, all that remains for political prisoners is to campaign with a hunger strike,” lamented Mr. Khemiri.

Mr. Ghannouchi began his hunger strike “to defend the demand for the release of all political prisoners and to lift this injustice against them,” the Ennahda party said in a statement published Friday. “He’s over 80 years old. He is a personality who has the health of his age and who finds himself in difficult conditions of incarceration,” Mr. Chebbi told AFP.

“Today, any political or national figure with independent thought risks prison for any reason,” he lamented. “Freedoms have collapsed in our country because institutions have been broken, the Constitution torn up, power monopolized by a single person. “It’s the reign of the arbitrary,” he denounced. Mr. Chebbi once again called for mobilization against “a general threat” targeting, according to him, politicians, trade unionists, bloggers, businessmen, officials and civil servants.

Mr. Ghannouchi was arrested in April after declaring that Tunisia would be threatened with a “civil war” if left-wing parties or those of political Islam like his were eliminated there. On May 15, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “advocating terrorism” in a separate case. He is the most famous opponent imprisoned since the coup by President Saïed who assumed full powers in July 2021.