Tunisia's Brotherhood demands compensation for its prisoners despite country’s collapse
The Brotherhood’s Ennahda movement insists on draining the Tunisian state’s resources until the last breath. While Tunisia is experiencing a catastrophe with an almost complete collapse of its health system in light of the corona pandemic, the head of Ennahda’s Shura Council, Abdelkarim Harouni, renewed the movement’s request for Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s government to quickly pay compensation to political prisoners from the era of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, as most of them belong to the Islamist movement.
Harouni's request caused public opinion to turn against the Brotherhood, as observers and Tunisians accused it of not taking into account the economic conditions of the country that pays it to obtain aid and loans, especially due to the corona crisis, which the Tunisian government has so far been unable to control.
By reviewing the aforementioned compensation file, Ennahda adopted the principle of putting pressure on successive governments to push for extracting controversial compensations since 2012.
Whenever Ennahda raises this file, widespread criticism comes out of it due to the difficult economic situation since 2011, such that the Minister of Finance in 2012, Houcine Dimassi, submitted his resignation in July of the same year in protest against the intention of the Ennahda-led government to issue a law allowing the payment of material compensation for thousands of former political prisoners.
Dimassi considered the compensation to be paid, as the state proceeded to provide it with more than $1 billion, describing the compensation law as the “most dangerous slip” taken by the government due to the economic repercussions.
Following Dimassi’s resignation, hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the parliament to warn against approving the compensation law, while the media and economic experts pointed to the negative repercussions it would have on the country's economy, which is suffering from a recession.
Under pressure from public opinion, the government announced the postponement of the decision on the issue of compensation for an indefinite period, but it promised to “fulfill its obligations” towards those covered by the general amnesty decree, which gives those who were imprisoned or expelled during the era of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on the basis of union or political activity the right to return to work and to request compensation in accordance with procedures and formulas established by a special legal framework.
Despite Ennahda’s pressure on numerous occasions and the rejection of its requests, the current catastrophic situation due to the spread of the corona virus raises questions about why the movement is opening this thorny file at a time when the country is preoccupied with a greater disaster and an economic situation that nearly unable to meet citizens’ needs for salaries and healt services.
There are indications that Mechichi’s government is threatening to leave in this situation, as it has proven its failure to change the economic conditions or limit the spread of corona, and by virtue of the fact that Ennahda was at one time the most prominent supporter of Mechichi’s government when President Kais Saied was pushing for its departure.
Ennahda believes that by defending Mechichi and helping him remain in power, then that means he must comply with its requests.
With the increasing possibility of Mechichi leaving the government, Ennahda will lose its pressure card on the government, given that the new government will not be indebted to the movement, as is the situation with the current government.
Hence, Ennahda is trying to take advantage of Mechichi until the last chance in an attempt to pass all the bills it wants before he leaves power.
It is noteworthy that Tunisia recorded 189 deaths on Friday, the highest daily death toll since the corona pandemic began last year, while 8,500 new cases were recorded.