Rached Ghannouchi and Ali Larayedh showed up at a police station after being subpoenaed by ‘counter-terrorism’ police.
Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of Tunisia’s dissolved parliament and chairman of the Ennahdha party, has appeared at a police station after being called to answer questions about what his party believes are “terrorism” allegations.
Dozens of protesters, including lawyers and political activists, gathered outside the building in the capital, Tunis, on Monday to demonstrate against the interrogation of Ghannouchi, who has denounced President Kais Saied’s seizure of major powers.
“The police state is over. We’re with you, Ghannouchi,” some chanted. Others shouted “Freedom!”
The Tunisian authorities have not given any explanation as to the reason for Ghannouchi’s summons.
Ennahdha officials said on Saturday that Ghannouchi and another party member, former Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, would be questioned by police for “sending jihadists to Syria”, but without giving details.
Ghannouchi has been a key player in Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolution that brought democracy, with his party joining several successive coalition governments.
When Saied seized most powers and shut down parliament last summer, Ghannouchi accused him of an anti-democratic coup, something the president denied.
‘New step towards exclusion’
Ghannouchi told Reuters news agency late on Saturday that the subpoena was “another attempt to attack opponents and another step towards exclusion”.
Larayedh said he had not been officially told why he was being subpoenaed, but news had leaked that it was linked to the sending of fighters to Syria.
“I was against this phenomenon and took measures to limit it,” said Larayedh.
Ennahdha spokesman Imad al-Khamiri told Al Jazeera the two had only been summoned to distract the public from rising prices and economic concerns.
In a statement, Ennahdha accused Saied of creating “evil business” against the opposition.
The party added that it would reveal more details at a press conference expected to be held later on Monday.
Secular parties have accused Ennahdha of being lenient towards armed groups, something the party has long denied.
Separately, five Tunisian parties on Monday announced their boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections due in December. The vote was requested by Saied, who still has support from some Tunisians who see him as a bulwark against the political elites they blame for the poor economic conditions in the country.