On April 18, 2023, the Tunisian police arrested and detained Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia’s main opposition party, Ennahdha (or Ennahda), on the charges of conspiring against state security. He was detained at El Aouina jail in the capital, Tunis, and transferred to La Marsa hospital the following day for undisclosed reasons.
The police conducted a lengthy search of Ghannouchi’s house after his arrest, according to multiple news reports.
Ghannouchi was the speaker of the Tunisian parliament when President Kais Saied abolished the body and ousted the cabinet in July 2021, and has been detained for questioning numerous times since then for his condemnations of Saied’s measures as a coup.
Ghannouchi’s daughter, Soumaya Ghannouchi, attributed his arrest to Saied’s “[failure] to convince public opinion of the charge [against Ghannouchi] of inciting violence,” with Ghannouchi’s lawyers reportedly suspecting the government would “fabricate new charges” that are “related to terrorism.”
Interrogation and Charges
On April 19, an investigative judge of the anti-terrorism unit located at the Tunis Court of First Instance began interrogating Ghannouchi. One of Ghannouchi’s defense lawyers stated that he had been charged with violating articles 68 and 72 of the Tunisian Penal Code, which criminalize the acts of conspiracy against state security and incitement to change the government by violent means.
According to Middle East Eye, after being interrogated for a lengthy amount of time, Ghannouchi, who is 82 years old, has decided to boycott future interrogation sessions, claiming that they have exhausted him mentally and physically.
Applicable Legislation in the Ghannouchi Case
The two main legal instruments governing the case against Ghannouchi are Law No. 26 of 2015 on Combating Crimes of Terrorism and Money Laundering and Law No. 79 on the Penal code of 1913, as amended.
Law No. 26 of 2015 on Combating Crimes of Terrorism and Money Laundering
Law No. 26 of 2015 created the Counter-Terrorism Unit, a judicial body in charge of investigating and prosecuting crimes related to terrorism. (Law No. 26 of 2015, art. 40.) The law provides that prosecutors and investigative judges investigating crimes related to terrorism are to be appointed on the basis of their experience (art. 40, para. 2), with the First Instance Court in Tunis being the only court with jurisdiction over terrorism offenses (art. 49).
Law No. 79 on the Penal Code of 1913, as Amended
Article 68 of the Tunisian Penal Code stipulates that the perpetrator of a conspiracy formed with the aim of committing an attack against the internal security of the state is punishable by five years’ imprisonment.
Furthermore, article 72 of the same law provides that anyone who deliberately attempts to change the form of government; incite people to arm themselves against each other; or cause disorder, murder, or looting on Tunisian territory is punishable by death.
George Sadek, Law Library of Congress
May 11, 2023
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