The Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution held a renewed protest today in support of legislation that would exclude officials of the pre-revolutionary regime from government positions, but the assault of a journalist covering the event brought renewed criticism of the organization, which has been accused of employing violence to advance the goals of the ruling Ennahdha party.
The Leagues’ recent efforts have been focused on a bill before the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) known as the Law for the Protection of the Revolution, which would disqualify anyone who had served under the regime of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from serving in the Tunisian government. [display_posts type=”related” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
The Leagues’ most recent protest in favor of this law occurred Thursday morning in front of the NCA building in the Tunis suburb of Bardo. The NCA was scheduled to discuss the legislation today.
At the protest, journalist Adnen Chawachi was assaulted in front of the building by supporters of the Leagues while covering the event, according to journalist Myriam ben Ghazi.
Journalists on Facebook held a protest in front of the Municipal Theater in downtown Tunis to support Chawachi and to demand greater protection from such attacks.
Later in the day, NCA Speaker Mustapha ben Jaafer appealed to Tunisian security services to be more alert and productive in protecting journalists on duty, according to radio station Mosaique FM.
The law in question has been hotly debated and is seen by opponents as an effort to exclude popular opposition figures from the political arena and to ensure that the current regime, led by the Ennahdha party, will remain in power.
The Nidaa Tounes party would be greatly affected by the bill if it were to pass. The party’s leader and presidential candidate Beji Caid Essebsi served in the Tunisian government from the 1960s to 1990s and would thus be disqualified from holding office under the bill.
Nidaa Tounes has now taken legal action against the Leagues. A suit filed in court by Essebsi and one other party member demands the official deactivation of the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution.
The Leagues were granted official license by the government in June 2012, a measure that allows them to operate legally, to file for permits, and to hold rallies and gatherings. According to the Tunisian Official Journal, in which such groups are registered, the National Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution cites its organizational goals as “reinforcing Islamic Arabic identity, fighting against corruption, ensuring a democratic transition, and spreading awareness of human rights principles.” [display_posts type=”same_author” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
Mohammed Dadaa, until recently general secretary of the Leagues, told Tunisia Live that he has left the organization to start a new political party, but he asserted that the Leagues are in no danger of dying out.
“Only the judiciary has the authority to dissolve the LPR,” Dadaa said, “And a political exclusion is not possible.”
We have recently opened LPR branches in the interior northern cities of Gafsa, Siliana, Rdaif, and Kasserine, and we intend to further enlarge our scope of action, he asserted.
“The LPR is an ardent defender of the Tunisian revolution, and as long as its [the revolution] objectives have not been fulfilled, we will continue to struggle,” Dadaa continued.
Olfa Armi of the Nidaa Tounes executive bureau confirmed to Tunisia Live that Beji Caid Essebsi and Abd Satar Mousa filed the suit asking for the deactivation of the Leagues.
“These are leagues that promote violent political action and will hinder the democratic transition in Tunisia,” Lazhar Akremi, a lawyer and member of Nidaa Tounes party, told Tunisia Live.
While Ennahdha’s Shura Council, which formulates the party’s policy goals, favors the legislation, the party’s general secretary and former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, has publicly denounced the bill.
“We have suffered enough from exclusion during the reign of a tyrannical and despotic regime,” he said earlier this month, according to radio station Mosaique FM.
Nissaf Slama is a previous author and producer with Tunisia Live. Nissaf, who graduated from the Preparatory Institute of English Literary Studies of Tunis in 2012, joined TL early 2013 where she covered political, cultural and civil society stories. Ever since, Nissaf collaborated with the New York Times and Al Jazeera English. Nissaf also interned with the Human Rights Watch where she covered Transitional Justice sexual minorities in Tunisia. Nissaf also worked with Peace Direct's Insight On Conflict as a local peacebuilding expert. Now, Nissaf works with the International Organization for Migration- Libya.