Tunisia to prosecute top politicians for 'electoral crimes'
Tunisia's court of first instance on Wednesday referred 19 top politicians for prosecution for "electoral crimes", including the leader of the Islamist Ennahdha Party, Rached Ghannouchi, and the head of the Heart of Tunisia Party, Nabil Karoui.
Four former Tunisian prime ministers - Youssef Chahed, Elyes Fakhfakh, Mehdi Jomaa, and Hamadi Jebali, who is also a senior Ennahdha figure - are included on the list of politicians referred to the court.
The court of first instance said in a statement that it had found evidence of "actions which could constitute electoral crimes" by the 19 accused.
Also on the list were former Defence Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi and former President Moncef Marzouki, who has already been sentenced to four years in prison in absentia for "assaulting" Tunisian state security.
Several of the politicians named in the court of first instance’s list, including Marzouki and Karoui, are currently outside Tunisia.
According to the court's statement, the politicians were suspected of violating election campaigning laws - using social media to illegally campaign and campaigning during a period of election silence.
The statement said that other politicians had not been referred for prosecution because further legal procedures and investigations were required.
Abdel Fattah Al-Taghouti, a spokesman for the Ennahdha Party, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that the party "had not received any summons or notification in this regard".
"The party and its leader [Rached Ghannouchi] respect the judiciary and will cooperate with any investigation into electoral or other violations," he said.
However Al-Taghouti questioned why only the 19 politicians listed had been named, pointing out that President Kais Saied had also been named in a previous report.
In June last year, Saied sacked then-Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament, which was chaired by Ghannouchi, in a move widely described as a "power-grab" and a "coup".
He also lifted immunity for MPs and arrested a number of political opponents.
On Wednesday, Saied said that "no one is above the law and all those who had committed crimes against the Tunisian people must be brought to account".
One Ennahdha politician who was arrested last week, former Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri, is currently in critical condition in Bizerte Hospital after going on hunger strike.
Bhiri suffers from several pre-existing health conditions.
Saied said that Bhiri was receiving all available medical treatment and suggested moving him from the civilian hospital in Bizerte to a military centre, but said that "anyone who committed a crime must be held to account like other citizens".
He also lashed out at opposition politicians again, saying: "I know what they are planning in the future and there are those who are planning to poison the [political] atmosphere."
Tunisia has seen increasing protests against Saied’s power-grab in recent weeks.