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Anti-terror probe of Tunisia Ennahdha chief delayed

Published: Updated:

The leader of Tunisia’s Islamist opposition party Ennahdha is set to be questioned Tuesday by an anti-terrorism unit, his lawyer said, after another senior party member faced hours of interrogation.

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Ennahdha categorically denies the claims that its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, and Tunisia’s former prime minister Ali Laarayedh were involved in sending extremist militants to Syria and Iraq.

The accusations have resurfaced after President Kais Saied tightened his grip on the judiciary, following the suspension of the Ennahdha-dominated parliament last year.

Ghannouchi had arrived at the headquarters of the anti-terrorism center on Monday afternoon for questioning, according to an AFP reporter in the capital Tunis, several hours after his deputy Laarayedh.

“After more than 12 hours of waiting, Mr Ghannouchi wasn’t heard by this unit which decided to delay the interrogation until mid-day Tuesday,” his lawyer Samir Dilou told AFP.

Laarayedh was questioned “for hours” and is still being held by the unit, said Dilou and an AFP reporter at the scene.

In a statement released overnight, Ennahdha denounced the interrogation as “a flagrant violation of human rights.”

Critics of the party and some politicians accuse Ennahdha of having facilitated the departure of militants for war zones.

After the 2011 overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, thousands of Tunisians joined the ranks of extremist organizations -- most notably ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but also in neighboring Libya.

Ennahdha played a central role in Tunisia’s post-Ben Ali democratic politics until Saied began his power grab in July last year, followed by a controversial referendum which granted unchecked powers to his office.

Ennahdha had on Sunday decried attempts “to use the judiciary to tarnish the opposition’s image” and implicate its leaders in “fabricated affairs.”

The probe against Ghannouchi and Laarayedh was meant to “distract the public” from dealing with economic and social issues and the “worsening conditions” in the country, the party said in a statement.

In July, the same anti-terrorism unit questioned Ghannouchi, 81, in a probe into allegations of corruption and money laundering linked to transfers from abroad to the charity Namaa Tunisia, affiliated with Ennahdha.

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