Tunisia Opposition Leaders Launch Hunger Strike in Jail Amid Crackdown

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Three prominent leaders of Tunisia’s once-dominant Ennahdha party have initiated a hunger strike to protest their detention following a crackdown on opponents of President Kais Saied.

The party, along with the wife of one of the detainees, confirmed the hunger strike on Monday.

Sahbi Atig, a former leader of Ennahdha’s parliamentary bloc, has been refusing food for 32 days, resulting in a significant deterioration of his health.

After visiting him in prison, his wife, Zeineb Mraihi, expressed deep concern, stating, “He lost 17 kilograms (37 pounds), his heart rhythm is weak, and he can hardly speak.” Atig was briefly admitted to intensive care last week.

President Saied dissolved Tunisia’s parliament in July 2021, enabling him to rule by decree and triggering a wave of protests. Ennahdha, an Islamist-inspired party, had been the largest faction in the parliament.

Last month, Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi received a one-year prison sentence on terrorism-related charges, which the party condemned as an “unjust political verdict.”

Since February, more than 20 political opponents and public figures, including former ministers and businesspeople, have been arrested by Saied’s administration. Atig has been in custody since early May under suspicion of money laundering.

Ennahdha revealed that Ahmed Mechergui, a former member of parliament, initiated his hunger strike on Sunday to protest his incarceration since April 18.

Another leading figure in the party, Youssef Nouri, who was arrested around the same time, has been on a hunger strike since April 25 to protest the conditions of his detention and the violation of his fundamental rights.

The European Parliament expressed concern about President Saied’s “authoritarian drift” in a non-binding resolution passed in March.

Saied has labeled the detainees as “terrorists” involved in a “conspiracy against state security.”