Tunisia.. Al-Buhairi’s arrest revives the legal and human rights controversy over the procedure of “house arrest”

The decision of the Ministry of the Interior in Tunisia to place lawyer and leader of the Ennahda movement, Noureddine El-Behairi, under house arrest, re-established a wide human rights and legal debate about the constitutionality of the procedure, and the conditions that accompanied his arrest, which his wife and the defense team described as enforced disappearance and kidnapping in the absence of a legal basis.

The arrest of the deputy from the Ennahda movement and his placement under house arrest comes in light of the exceptional measures the country is going through, announced by President Kais Saied on July 25, according to which he froze the work of Parliament and lifted the immunity of his deputies, as he assumed all powers.

And the authorities in Tunisia had previously taken, after last July 25, decisions to place political figures and heads of constitutional bodies under house arrest, to release them later, without clarifying the legal justifications for the arrest or release.

This time, the Ministry of the Interior contented itself with publishing a statement announcing that it had taken two decisions to implement house arrest, without mentioning the names of people, in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 50 of 1978 regulating the state of emergency.

She indicated that this law authorizes the placement of any person under house arrest, noting that the procedure carries a conservatory character dictated by necessity within the framework of protecting public security, and ends with the expiry of its obligation.

Internationalization of the Buhairi case

Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, lawyer Saeeda Al-Akrimi held the responsibility of what happened to her husband, Noureddine Al-Behairi, to the Minister of Interior, Tawfiq Sharaf Al-Din and the President of the Republic, announcing that she, accompanied by the defense team, filed a set of complaints to the local judiciary and international human rights bodies.

Regarding the circumstances that accompanied what she described as her husband’s kidnapping, Al-Akrimi confirmed that her husband was arrested in front of his house last Friday by dozens of policemen in civilian clothes who assaulted her and her husband, forcing him to ride in a black SUV and taking him to an unknown destination.

She explained that she quickly contacted the judicial authorities, the Minister of Justice, and even the military judiciary, to find out who was behind the “kidnapping”, but everyone denied their knowledge of the matter.

And she continued, “We were informed hours after the operation by the Minister of Justice that my husband was placed under house arrest in a secret location, and a gendarmerie general called me and asked me to bring my husband’s medicine to the security center in the city of Manzil Jamil in the Bizerte governorate in the north without being able to see him.”

Al-Buhairi’s wife indicated that after 36 hours of her husband’s arrest, she was able to find out his whereabouts, so it became clear that he was transferred to a hospital in Manzil Jamil after suffering a heart attack.

She pointed out that until this moment, she is unaware of her husband’s health status because she was prevented by the security in the vicinity of the hospital from entering, and her entry was stipulated by her signing a document that she does not know what it is.

The defense committee of the leader of the Ennahda movement held a press conference this morning, during which it shed light on what it described as the legal breaches that marred the arrest of Al-Buhairi, considering that he is in a situation of “enforced disappearance” and not house arrest, as the Ministry’s account says.

The defense team stressed that Al-Buhairi’s situation is ambiguous, “he is neither detained nor in a state of detention,” according to her, in the absence of any legal basis or judicial decision authorizing the security authorities to detain him, or even place him under house arrest.

During the press conference, the members of the commission considered that their client is in a state of “enforced disappearance” punishable by the criminal law, announcing the filing of local and other complaints to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights against anyone who will be revealed by the research.

Regarding the place to which Al-Buhairi was taken in the governorate of Bizerte, the members of the commission suggested that it was either a military barracks, or a center for agricultural training, or a house used by the Ben Ali regime to torture his opponents.

Buhairi’s health status

On the health of Al-Buhairi, the head of the National Authority for the Prevention of Torture, Fathi Al-Jari, confirmed in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net that a delegation from the authority, accompanied by another from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, visited at dawn today, the leader of the Renaissance movement.

He stressed that the latter resides in the cardiology department of the Habib Hospital in Qatfa in the city of Manzil Jamil, and that his health condition is stable, but he is on a hunger strike to protest his condition, as he refused to eat, drink and even medicine.

Regarding the steps that the commission will take, Al-Jari confirmed that the commission will submit an official request to the Ministry of the Interior to find out the official place where Al-Buhairi will be placed under house arrest, considering that he is now in a situation of “detention.”

The frozen Speaker of Parliament, Rashid Ghannouchi, had sent a letter to President Qais in which he will hold him responsible for the life of the leader, al-Buhairi, and demanded that his fate be disclosed, that a medical and human rights team be able to access him, and that his release be expedited.

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