Tunisia's anti-terrorism police detain former PM Ali Laarayedh - lawyer

Lawyer Mokhtar Jmayi told Reuters that former prime minister Ali Laarayedh is expected to appear before a judge on Wednesday.

Tunisia's President Kais Saied gives a speech at the government's swearing-in ceremony at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia February 27, 2020 (photo credit: FETHI BELAID/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Tunisia's President Kais Saied gives a speech at the government's swearing-in ceremony at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia February 27, 2020
(photo credit: FETHI BELAID/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Tunisia's anti-terrorism police detained for one day Ali Laarayedh, a former prime minister and senior official in the Islamist opposition Ennahda party, after an investigation into suspicions of sending jihadists to Syria, lawyers said on Tuesday.

In the same case, the police postponed the hearing of Tunisia's Islamist opposition leader and speaker of the dissolved parliament Rached Ghannouchi to midday on Tuesday, after waiting for about 14 hours.

It is expected that Laarayedh will appear before a judge on Wednesday, lawyer Mokhtar Jmayi told Reuters.

"We are shocked..the file is completely empty and without any evidence," Samir Dilou, another lawyer said.

Ennahda denies accusations of terrorism, calling it a political attack on a foe of President Kais Saied.

 People take part in a protest against President Kais Saied's referendum on a new constitution, in Tunis, Tunisia, July 23, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ZOUBEIR SOUISSI) People take part in a protest against President Kais Saied's referendum on a new constitution, in Tunis, Tunisia, July 23, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ZOUBEIR SOUISSI)

Ghannouchi, 81, has accused Saied of an anti-democratic coup since he seized most powers last summer, shutting down the parliament and moving to rule by decree, powers he has largely formalized with a new constitution ratified in a July referendum.

Tunisia's anti-terrorism security officials

Last month, several former security officials and two Ennahda members were arrested on charges connected to Tunisians traveling for jihad.

Security and official sources estimated that around 6,000 Tunisians traveled to Syria and Iraq last decade to join jihadist groups including Islamic State. Many were killed there while others escaped and returned to Tunisia.