Tunisia opposition leader initiates hunger strike in prison News
Fjmustak, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tunisia opposition leader initiates hunger strike in prison

Rached Ghannouchi, the Tunisian opposition leader and head of the Ennahda main opposition party, commenced a hunger strike on Monday in solidarity with other anti-government figures. Ghannouchi, aged 82, has been incarcerated since last year on charges of incitement against police and plotting against state security. His recent conviction in a separate case, resulting in a three-year prison sentence for accepting external financing, prompted his decision to join the protest fast.

According to a statement released by Ghannouchi’s legal team, his hunger strike aims to draw attention to what he perceives as unjust incarceration and to advocate for the release of political prisoners. This initiative aligns with the ongoing protest fast initiated last week by six opposition leaders who have been detained without trial and have been imprisoned since February 2023 as part of an investigation into a “conspiracy against state security.”

This hunger strike starts amid Tunisia’s broader socio-economic challenges, including rising food prices and shortages. President Kais Saied’s dismissal of the prime minister and subsequent appointments have further fueled discontent, with calls for political reform gaining momentum.

Furthermore, Ghannouchi’s hunger strike underscores a significant shift in Tunisia’s political dynamics, with opposition figures resorting to nonviolent means to challenge perceived governmental overreach. This development comes in the wake of increased scrutiny of Saied’s administration, particularly regarding allegations of constitutional breaches and suppression of dissent.

The opposition alleges that Saied is stifling media freedom and enforcing authoritarian governance, asserting that his constitutional amendments have eroded the democratic foundations established after the 2011 revolution. Saied, in contrast, vehemently denies these allegations, branding his detractors as criminals, traitors and terrorists. He has cautioned that any judge granting their release would be perceived as aiding and abetting them.