Islamist leader Ghannouchi returns to Tunisia

AFP / Odd Andersen

Tunisian Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia after more than 20 years in exile on Sunday. Thousands of supporters greeted him at the airport. He plans to officially register his Ennahda movement as a political party.


Supporters sang a song in honour of the Prophet Mohammed and held up olive branches, flowers and copies of the Koran.

Dozens of people at the airport protested against Ghannouchi’s return.

Correspondent Léa-Lisa Westerhoff, Tunis

In contrast to his 1970s preachings in which he condemned the rise of secular ideas and the advance of women's rights, Ghannouchi said Sunday that Sharia Islamic law now has "no place in Tunisia".

He was persecuted in Tunisia since founding his Islamist movement in 1981 and fled the country in 1989, two years after Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali came to power.

He still officially has a life sentence over his head, but Tunisia’s new government has drawn up an amnesty law for political convicts. The law still has to go before parliament for final approval.

"There is still confusion regarding the political situation,” said Ghannouchi. “The interim government is changing its ministers every day, it's not stable yet and its powers are not clear yet."

The 69-year-old Ghannouchi has been living in Britain.

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