Moussi to challenge Ennahda’s legal standing in court

Head of Tunisia’s Free Destourian party accuses Islamist leaders of “falsifying” paperwork in party application.
Wednesday 08/07/2020
Tunisian leader of the Free Destourian Party (PDL) Abir Moussi speaks at a sit-in in front of the Tunis Municipal Theatre. (DPA)
Tunisian leader of the Free Destourian Party (PDL) Abir Moussi speaks at a sit-in in front of the Tunis Municipal Theatre. (DPA)

TUNIS – A confrontation betwen Abir Moussi, leader of Tunisia’s opposition Free Destourian party (PDL), and the Islamist Ennahda party escalated Tuesday when Moussi announced she had filed a complaint with the Administrative Court challenging Ennahda’s legality, based on evidence she obtained from the Interior Ministry.

Moussi’s announcement adds further pressure to the Islamist movement, which has grown increasingly isolated in parliament after two prominent parties — the Democratic Current and Tahya Tounes — voted to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation against Ennahda’s wishes.

In a news conference Tuesday, Moussi said the procedures for legalising Ennahda after the 2011 uprising were in violation of the Parties Law, which was in effect from 1988 until the date of the issuance of a new decree in September 2011, months after the fall of the previous regime on January 14 that year.

Moussi explained that the party’s file, which was withdrawn from the Ministry of Human Rights after an official request for access to information, is incomplete and fails to meet the Parties Law’s provisions.

Accusing Ennahda of deceiving the Tunisian administration, Moussi said, “The declaration of the creation of the Ennahda party was signed by Rached Ghannouchi and Noureddine Bhiri on January 28, 2011. Except that Ghannouchi only returned to Tunisia on January 30, 2011”

“The signature put by Ghannouchi on this document which formalises the creation of the Ennahdha party, is not the same as the one he usually uses,” she added, accusing the Islamist party of falsifying documents.

Moussi also said that Ennahda’s file to obtain a license did not include official documents from the state proving that its founders did not have secondary citizenship, nor documents related to the general legislative amnesty and the restoration of civil rights.

Moussi pointed out that Ennahda leader Ghannouchi and other senior members had received strict judicial rulings during the era of late President Habib Bourguiba.

Moussi said that the establishment of the party with an Islamist reference and ideology is inconsistent with the Parties Law of 1988. She stressed that she will seek to obtain the support of parliamentary blocs to hold a public session to deliberate on the legal violations that mar Ennahda’s founding.

She also pledged to prosecute former Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi for “violating the law by granting a licence to Ennahda Movement in 2011 despite the breach of legal requirements.”

Rajhi responded to Moussi’s accusations on Wednesday, saying that Ennahda’s file was transferred to the direction of the political affairs office at the Ministry of the Interior, which validated all documents after checking that the principles and objectives of the party were not religious in nature.

In response to Moussi’s comments about Ghanouchi’s signature, he said the Parties Law does not require the physical presence of the party’s president.

By questioning the legality of Ennahda’s standing, Moussi is putting the Islamist party under unprecedented pressure and is putting herself at risk of fierce backlash from Ennahda’s senior members.

On Tuesday, the head of Ennahda’s parliamentary bloc, Noureddine Bhiri, threatened Moussi and her party with legal dissolution.

Bhiri estimated that the PDL leader and her parliamentary bloc actually “provided all the conditions for the dissolution of their political party by refusing to recognise the Constitution, their incitement of hatred and conflict as well as their refusal to coexist with other Tunisians.”

“These reasons could justify the dissolution of her party”, he said, hammering: “We will see which party will be dissolved and which party will remain!”

Despite Ennahda’s fiery rhetoric, Moussi is expected to get broad support in parliament and from the public in seeking to reexamine Ennahda’s legal status.

Despite the “moderate” statements from some Ennahda leaders, supporters’ discourse on social media websites is often extreme, with some accusing the party’s opponents of “apostasy.”

During her news conference, Moussi also laid out the relationship between Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood with official documents and press articles.

Ennhada leaders were among founding members of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, she said, which has a history of extremist stances and is headquartered in Qatar.

She called for dissolution of this movement because it “represents a real danger which threatens” the law, society, acquired rights and national security.

“Faced with this evidence, the Tunisian government and state can only move to dissolve the Tunisian branch of this organisation,” said Moussi.

She also declared that her party has officially asked Banque Zitouna to access bank statements in order to inquire about the sources of its financing, particularly from Qatar.

This adds further pressure on Ennahda, forcing it to defend its external connections and ideological orientations, including Ghannouchi’s alleged bias in favour of Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood

The developments have forced Ghannouchi, who also serves as parliament speaker, to scale back his foreign agendas and tread carefully at home.

Moussi has previously called on parliament to withdraw confidence from Ghannouchi, including after his meetings and correspondence with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to Moussi, Ghannouchi, by supporting the Turkish-Muslim Brotherhood axis, represents a threat to national security. She also warned against his attending National Security Council meetings in his capacity as parliament speaker, cautioning that his learning such sensitive information could threaten the country’s interests and security.

In recent months, Moussi’s PDL has become a major rival of Ennahda, as revealed by the results of partial elections at the level of some localities, where the PDL came ahead.

The election results are a strong indication that the PDL will be a major player on the Tunisian political scene in the coming years after it succeeded in echoing Tunisians’ fears about the Islamist model that Ennahda is seeking to impose on the country.