Tunisian Islamist leader says he’ll return from exile
(Photo: Protesters in Tunis January 14, 2011/Zohra Bensemra)
The leader of a banned Tunisian Islamist movement has said he would return in the next few days from exile in London after Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who ran the country for 23 years, was forced out.
Tunisian authorities outlawed the Ennahda, or Renaissance, movement in the early 1990s after accusing it of a violent plot to overthrow secular rule. But the movement said it is non-violent and the victim of government repression.
“I am going to go back very soon,” Rached Ghannouchi told Reuters in an telephone interview at the weekend. “I haven’t decided when yet, but possibly in the days to come.”
Tunisia has had a strong secular tradition since its independence from France in 1956 and Islamist politicians have a much lower profile than in nearby countries such as Algeria or Egypt. There is some backing for moderate Islamist groups in Tunisia, but it is not clear how much because supporters hid their sympathies to avoid arrest.