Skip to main content

Tunisia: Police arrest ex-prime minister Jebali on suspicion of money laundering

Hamadi Jebali's lawyer said his client would not answer investigators’ questions and had entered into a hunger strike
Police in the city of Sousse seized the phones of Jebali, right, and his wife, left, and took him to an unknown location, according to a statement by his family on Facebook (File pic/AFP)

Tunisian police on Thursday arrested former prime minister Hamadi Jebali, who was also a former senior member of the Ennahda party, on suspicion of money laundering, according to his lawyer.

Police in the city of Sousse seized Jebali's phone and his wife's phone and took him to an unknown location, according to a statement by his family on Facebook.

Jebali's arrest raises further concerns over the country's human rights record since President Kais Saied seized executive powers last year.

The interior ministry declined to comment on Jebali's arrest. The ministry called a news conference for Friday, without giving any details.

Jebali's defence team said they had met him at the detention centre where he was being held. 

"Jebali told us he will not answer the investigators’ questions and he entered into a hunger strike as the issue has a political motivation and nothing to do with money laundering," Jebali's lawyer Mokhtar Jemai told Reuters.

Ennahda was the biggest party in Tunisia's parliament before President Saied dissolved the assembly and seized powers last year.

Saied said the move was temporary and was needed to save Tunisia from what he saw as a corrupt, self-serving elite.

"The president is personally responsible for Jebali's physical and psychological well-being," his family said in the Facebook post, and called on civil society and human rights organisations "to stand up against these repressive practices".

Jebali, who was prime minister from December 2011 to March 2013, resigned following a political crisis.

Earlier this year, police detained Noureddine Bhiri, the vice president of Ennahda, for more than two months before releasing him without any charges being brought.

Saied's opponents say he is waging a campaign through the police and the judiciary to target his opponents, a charge he denies.