Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia’s Islamist movement, was granted permission to leave after a court hearing on Tuesday regarding a money laundering investigation that his Ennahda party views as a political ploy.
After receiving warnings from activists that the authorities were considering detaining the 81-year-old Ghannouchi in pre-trial detention, the preliminary hearing before an investigative judge lasted nearly ten hours.
Ghannouchi’s attorney and a representative of the Ennahda party asserted that the judge had released him pending additional inquiry.
The hearing takes place less than a week before President Kais Saied holds a referendum on a new constitution that would significantly increase his powers; Ennahda and many other parties have criticized the referendum as being unlawful.
200 or more people gathered in front of the court and chanted, “Down with the coup,” alluding to Saied’s usurpation of authority, as well as “Ghannouchi, you are not alone.” After his release, they hoisted signs reading “end political trials” and reveled.
According to a judicial official, the judge is looking into allegations of money laundering involving foreign monies given to an organization with ties to Ennahda. His investigation for potential ties to terrorism has also been mentioned in local media.
Ghannouchi, who is the speaker of the parliament that Saied has dissolved, as well as the previous prime minister Hamadi Jebali and a number of other individuals have had their financial assets frozen by the judge.
Last week, Ghannouchi claimed to Reuters that Saied was exploiting the referendum to push Tunisia toward tyranny and that the inquiry into him was politically motivated.
The slanderous accusations “come within the framework of passing a constitution that enshrines tyranny,” he claimed in a statement on Tuesday.
He continued by saying that he had been prosecuted and detained under the administrations of Zine El Abdine Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba, and that he was currently “subjected to the greatest forms of injustice.”
Since the 2011 revolution, Ennahda has played a significant role in the legislature and in almost every coalition administration, cooperating with non-Islamist parties and eschewing its Islamist origins.
In order to end years of political inaction, Saied has claimed that his actions since last year, when he shut down the parliament and began to rule by decree before revising the nation’s democratic constitution, were necessary.
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