Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia, called for the imposition of flogging as a punishment for those convicted of slander.
Ghannouchi made these comments in reference to a female Tunisian blogger, Olfa Riahi, who alleged that Ghannouchi's son-in-law was involved in corruption and an extra-marital affair. Ghannouchi said that Riahi should be punished according to Shariah law.
Riahi published documents that purport to show that the Tunisian Foreign Minister, Rafik Abdessalem, used government money to pay for hotel rooms in which he had an affair. Riahi said that it took her two and a half months to verify the authenticity of the documents and trace the bill payments at the Sheraton hotel:“I have the bank account of the foreign ministry and I am certain the documents are authentic."
She called on the government to launch a probe into the scandal. The minister appeared on TV to dismiss the allegations and claimed that this was a plot against the Islamist government. He said he expects more such allegations against other ministers.
However, he did admit that he stayed at the hotel since the hotel room was near his office and he did not own a house in the capital. He also admitted that there was a woman involved but claims that she was a relative who came to see him at the hotel. It sounds as if she might have stayed for a while as well. You would think that the minister would secure somewhat cheaper accommodations nearer his office!
Mondir Thabet, a political analyst, said that Ghannouchi's statement was “a clear call for imposing Shariah”. Ziad Krichan, editor of a daily paper, said that Ghannouchi's call shows that the Islamists are unable to separate religion from politics. Many Tunisians claim that the new government has done little to solve any of Tunisia's problems and there have been a number of violent protests.