gul6_Hasan MradDeFodi Images via Getty Images_ghannouchi Hasan Mrad/De Fodi Images via Getty Images

Rached Ghannouchi’s Plight Deserves More Attention

Rather than capitalizing on his popularity to consolidate his own power after the Arab Spring, the Tunisian politician Rached Ghannouchi pursued compromise in the name of pluralism and democracy. His imprisonment by a regime that does not share those commitments should provoke far more international outrage than it has.

ISTANBUL – As a former politician and former president who has long spoken out against political persecution, I feel duty bound to draw attention to the plight of the imprisoned Tunisian politician Rached Ghannouchi. Though his detention was supposed to end this summer, it looks as though it will now be extended.  That prospect pains me, as it should any true believer in democracy. Ghannouchi has served his country and its people with decency. He does not deserve to be forgotten behind bars.

In March 2012, following Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, I was the first foreign president to address the country’s Constituent Assembly. I told the Assembly that I was heartened and impressed by the emerging national consensus among secularists and conservatives – a significant feat and a sign of democratic maturity. As I stated in my address, “The whole world, especially the Arab and Islamic world, struggling for freedom, justice, rights, and dignity, had turned their minds and hearts to Tunisia.”

After 25 years of one-man rule, Tunisia was sending a clear message to the world: Democracy is not a form of governance exclusive to the West. Behind this message was a wise man who was setting an example for everyone with his dedication to democratic principles and tolerance: Ghannouchi.