Tunisian judge issues warrant for questioning of former president

International arrest warrant to summon Moncef Marzouki from Paris

The leader of the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR) Moncef Marzouki  gives a press conference on October 26, 2011 in Tunis. Tunisia's biggest secular party said Wednesday it had started coalition talks with the Islamist Ennahda which leads the vote count in historic polls, insisting the frontrunner is neither the devil nor the Taliban. "No, no, no it is not the devil and we do not make pacts with the devil," Congress for the Republic leader Moncef Marzouki told reporters in Tunis. "One must not take them for the Taliban of Tunisia. It is a moderate part of Islam." AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

A judge in Tunisia has issued an international arrest warrant for former president Moncef Marzouki, state news agency TAP reported on Thursday.

This is the latest episode in a long-simmering row between Mr Marzouki and current head of state President Kais Saied.

Mr Marzouki, who led Tunisia from 2011 to 2014 and is now based in Paris, is accused of “plotting against the external security of the state”, after he pressed France to oppose Mr Saied's sweeping consolidation of power in July.

Anxieties over external influence in Tunisia's internal affairs have been at the fore of the political debate since Mr Saied assumed sole control of the country.

Accusations of lobbying for foreign influence have been levelled against several political parties and individuals.

Mr Marzouki's credentials as a champion of democracy and prominent critic of Tunisia's dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali helped him secure his position as president after Ben Ali's fall in 2011.

But imprudent political alliances diminished his popularity and influence. A poor showing in the 2019 election left his career in tatters.

In the months since Mr Saied's July 25 consolidation of power, Mr Marzouki has emerged as one of his most vocal critics.

While many political parties and civil society organisations have called for dialogue and inclusion in the hope of securing a seat at the table to decide Tunisia's future, Mr Marzouki has given television interviews calling on France “not to help the dictatorial regime in Tunisia”, and written direct criticisms of Mr Saied on Facebook.

In October, Mr Marzouki successfully lobbied for France and other nations to boycott the biannual conference of international organisation Francophonie, which represents countries and regions where French is spoken.

Its gathering was scheduled to be held this month on the Tunisian island of Djerba.

Tunisia's foreign minister said the postponement of the conference was “consensual” so that it could be held under “optimal conditions” and did not have anything to do with the political uncertainty in the country.

However, several days later the Francophonie Parliamentary Assembly voted to suspend Tunisia's membership, in light of the “latest developments” in the country.

Mr Marzouki said he was “proud” to play a role in the postponement of the summit.

Mr Saied ordered the justice minister to open an investigation into allegations that Mr Marzouki had conspired against state security.

Mr Saied also withdrew the former leader's diplomatic passport, saying “he is among the enemies of Tunisia”.

Updated: November 5th 2021, 12:17 PM