Detained Tunisia ex-Minister Bhiri Charged With ‘Terrorism’

Former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, who is refusing food or medication after his transfer to hospital, is suspected of “terrorism”.

The interior minister said Monday that Bhiri, deputy president of Ennahdha seen by President Kais Saied as an ‘enemy of the state’ was arrested by State Security Services officials on Friday and his whereabouts were initially unknown.

Ennahdha had played a central role in Tunisian politics until President Kais Saied outmanouvered them last year.

While Tunisia emerged as the only democracy from the Arab Spring revolts of a decade ago, civil society groups and Saied’s opponents have expressed fear of a slide back to totalitarianism a decade after the revolution that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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“There were fears of acts of terrorism targeting the country’s security and we had to act,” Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine said late Monday of the arrest.

A member of a delegation that visited Bhiri in hospital said Monday that he was refusing food or medication.

On Sunday activists and a former Ennahdha legislator said Bhiri was in a critical condition and facing death.

A joint team from Tunisia’s independent anti-torture group INPT and the United Nations rights commission visited Bhiri at the hospital in the northern town of Bizerte on Sunday and said he was under no serious health challenge.

He is “lively and lucid”, and being kept under close observation in a private room of the hospital’s cardiology ward.

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