Exiled Islamist leader to return Sunday to Tunisia: party

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The leader of Tunisia's Islamist movement Ennahdha, Rached Ghannouchi, will return home from London Sunday after more than 20 years in exile, the party's spokesman in Paris said.

"He will not return triumphantly, claiming a place in the government, but as a simple citizen," Houcine Jaziri told AFP on Thursday.

Ghannouchi said earlier this week he planned to let a younger person take over the party leadership in the wake of the popular uprising that led to the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, no relation to the Ennahdha leader, has already promised the end of bans on political groups like the Communists and Islamists, among a host of unprecedented new freedoms.

But he has said Rached Ghannouchi would only be able to return once a planned amnesty law is passed because of the life sentence he got when he was tried in absentia for alleged plots against the state.

Founded in 1981 by intellectuals inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood born in Egypt, Ennahdha was at first tolerated in Tunisia, including in the initial years after Ben Ali took power in 1987.

Ben Alia banned Ennahdha in 1992.

© 2011 AFP

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