Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda movement leader Rached Ghannouchi arrived at a Tunis court on Tuesday to answer questions in a money laundering investigation that his party rejects as a political ploy.
Dozens of Ghannouchi’s supporters stood protesting outside the court despite a heavy police presence for his testimony in a preliminary hearing by an investigative judge.
The hearing comes less than a week before President Kais Saied holds a referendum on a new constitution that would greatly expand his powers in a move that Ennahda and many other parties have rejected as illegal.
A judiciary official told Reuters the judge would investigate Ghannouchi over suspicions of money laundering relating to foreign funds paid to an Ennahda-linked association. Local media have reported that he would also be investigated for suspected links to terrorism.
Last week, Ghannouchi told Reuters the investigation into him was politically motivated and said Saied was using the referendum to push Tunisia towards dictatorship.
Ennahda has been a major force in parliament and in nearly every coalition government since the 2011 revolution, working alongside secular parties and moving away from its extremist roots.
Saied has said his moves since last year, when he closed the parliament and started to rule by decree before rewriting the country’s democratic constitution, were necessary to end years of political stagnation.