Jebali says the arrest is politically motivated as President Saied continues his crackdown on opponents.
Tunisian police have arrested former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, a former senior member of the Ennahdha party, on suspicion of money laundering, his lawyer told Reuters.
Police in the city of Sousse confiscated the phones of Jebali and his wife and then took him to an undisclosed location on Thursday, his family said on Facebook.
Jebali’s arrest has raised opposition concerns about the human rights situation in Tunisia since President Kais Saied dissolved parliament last July in a move his opponents called a coup.
The Interior Ministry declined to comment on Jebali’s arrest. The ministry has convened a press conference for Friday, without giving details.
Jebali’s defense team said they were able to meet him at the detention center where he is being held.
“Jebali has told us that he will not answer the questions of the investigators and he has gone on hunger strike because the issue is politically motivated and has nothing to do with money laundering,” said Jebali’s lawyer Mokhtar Jemai.
Ennahdha, which describes itself as a Muslim Democratic party, was previously the largest party in the Tunisian parliament.
At the time, Saied said the move to suspend parliament and seize executive power was temporary and necessary to save Tunisia from what he saw as a corrupt, selfish elite.
“The president is personally responsible for Jebali’s physical and psychological well-being,” Jebali’s family said in the Facebook post, calling on civil society and human rights organizations to “stand up against these repressive practices”.
Jebali was prime minister in 2012 and resigned in 2013 after a political crisis.
Earlier this year, police arrested Noureddine Bhiri, Ennahdha’s vice president, and held him for more than two months before releasing him without charge.
The rule of Saied
Saied’s opponents say he is campaigning through the police and the judiciary to attack his opponents, a charge he denies.
Since taking over executive power, he has set aside the Tunisian constitution of 2014 and its rules by decree.
His actions initially received widespread public support after years of frustration with the Tunisian political elite, but public anger is growing over high inflation and unemployment and declining public services.
Saied is now planning a referendum on July 25, where Tunisians will vote on a new constitution, a vote the opposition has said they will boycott. The Tunisian parliament will remain suspended until a replacement meeting is voted on December 17, 2022.
On June 1, Saied fired 57 judges, accusing them of corruption and protecting ‘terrorists’. According to the Tunisian Association of Judges (TJA), the allegations were politically motivated. In response, the TJA launched a national strike, which has now been extended for its third week.
In February, Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council, which had been the main guarantee of the independence of the judiciary since the 2011 Tunisian revolution that overthrew former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Saied has said the decisions were necessary to cleanse the judiciary of rampant corruption and that he does not want to control the judiciary.