Tunisia opens corruption probes of leading Islamist party

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Tunisian prosecutors have opened investigations into alleged foreign campaign funding and anonymous donations to Islamist movement Ennahda and two other political parties, according to local media.

Ennahda is the dominant party in parliament, whose activities were suspended this week by President Kais Saied. Tunisia’s leader also fired the prime minister and key Cabinet members, saying it was necessary to stabilize a country in economic and health crisis. But Ennahda and other critics accused him of overstepping his power and threatening Tunisia’s young democracy.

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The spokesperson for the financial prosecutor’s office, Mohsen Daly, said Wednesday on Mosaique FM radio that the investigations were opened in mid-July.

He also announced investigations were opened earlier this month into the country’s national anti-corruption agency — suspected itself of corruption — and into Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission created to confront abuses during Tunisia’s decades of autocratic rule.

Calm prevailed in Tunis, the capital, four days after nationwide protests that ended with the president’s decision to centralize power in his hands “until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state.” The following day, on Monday, security forces raided the Tunis offices of Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite news network and shut it down.

The Cairo bureau chief for the New York Times tweeted Wednesday that she and her team reporting in Tunis were detained for two hours by police. “We’re continuing to report in Tunis,” Vivian Yee tweeted. She provided no details.

Ennahda’s leader, who is the speaker of parliament, said Tuesday that his party is a perfect target to blame for Tunisia’s crescendo of economic, health and other problems. Coronavirus infections are notably ravaging the country, aggravating public anger.

Rachid Ghannouchi told The Associated Press that his party is working to form a “national front” to counter Saied’s decision to suspend the legislature, to pressure the president “to demand the return to a democratic system.”

He conceded that Ennahda, which has been accused of focusing on its internal concerns instead of managing the coronavirus, “needs to review itself, as do other parties.”

Tunisia, which ignited the Arab Spring a decade ago when protests led to the overthrow of its longtime autocratic leader, is often regarded as the only success story of those uprisings. But democracy didn’t bring prosperity.

Read more: Abir Moussi: MP whose criticism of the Islamist Ennahda party contributed to its fall

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