Tunisia's interim authorities have legalised the Ennahda Islamist movement, which was banned under the regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali that was toppled in mid-January. Ennahda was founded in 1981 and inspired by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
AFP - Tunisia's Islamist movement Ennahda, banned under the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was toppled in January, has been legalised 30 years after it was formed, it announced Tuesday.
"The Ennahda movement has just been legalised," spokesman Ali El-Aryadh told AFP.
The interim government installed after Ben Ali's fall on January 14 after weeks of street protests granted unprecedented freedoms and allowed exiles to return despite the bans from the old regime.
Ennahda (Awakening) leader Rached Ghannouchi returned on January 30 after nearly 20 years in exile, mostly in London, to be welcomed by thousands of people.
He founded the movement in 1981 with intellectuals inspired by the influential Muslim Brotherhood born in Egypt.
The group was tolerated in the initial years after Ben Ali took power in 1987 but denied legal registration.
An Islamist-backed coalition won 17 percent of the vote in 1989 elections, even though the vote was heavily falsified, leading to a crackdown on the movement.
About 30,000 activists and Islamist sympathisers were arrested in the 1990s and many went into exile.
Ghannouchi has said he will not run for the presidency in elections that the interim authority has said will be held by mid-July, but his movement plans to take part in parliamentary elections.
Experts say it is hard to gauge the strength of Islamism as a political force in Tunisia as it has been banned for decades, but Islamists were its most powerful opposition force before the persecution began.
Date created : 2011-03-01