Her attorney paid, but the court held her in jail pending possible new charges based on her Internet posting. Al-
Qayrawan judges were in no mood for leniency; two days earlier, a German woman and two French women, members of the FEMEN activist group, had ripped off their shirts in downtown Tunis to protest Sboui’s arrest.
They, too, were arrested; they were later sentenced to four months in prison. At about the same time, 20 Salafists who had been charged in connection with the September mob attack on the U.S. Embassy were given suspended sentences and released.
Shift against Islamist group
The assassination in February of Chokri Belaid, a union organizer and secular activist, shocked Tunisian society, becoming something of a turning point for the Ennahda government and, perhaps, for the struggle to redefine Tunisian politics.
The Interior Ministry blamed it on Islamist extremists. Responding to the outcry for a crackdown, Ennahda reshuffled its government. Larayedh, a former interior minister known as a law-and-order figure, was installed as prime minister and technocrats took over most other ministries.
Since then, the government’s attitude toward Ansar al-Sharia has hardened noticeably.
Ghannouchi, who has no government position but is Ennahda’s supreme guide, has said that Ansar draws inspiration from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In his conversation in Washington, Ghannouchi estimated at 5,000 the number of Ansar Salafists who want to violently oppose the government. He qualified them as “very isolated” but said, “They make a lot of noise.”
Along with the shift against Ansar, however, the Ennahda movement has launched a parliamentary offensive against its secular opponents. With a proposed law to “immunize the revolution,” political figures associated with Ben Ali’s rule would be excluded from holding office.
“The main target is me,” said Beji Caid Essebsi, 86, who served in key positions under Bourguiba and whose Call for Tunisia party, in alliance with other secular groups, has gained enough strength in recent opinion polls to raise hopes of defeating Ennahda in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.
Essebsi said his support is swelling because Tunisians feel that the revolution has stalled under Ennahda. He also said that people are upset over the anemic, tourist-scarce economy and that a majority of Tunisians reject the Islam promised by Ennahda and Ansar al-Sharia.
“We are for a secular state, while they are for a religious state,” he said. “The bottom line is that we stand for two different kinds of society.”