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Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood Party Implicated In International Lobbying Scandal

September 6th, 2021 13:03

Arab media is report­ing that the Tunisian judi­cia­ry has opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into the Ennah­da par­ty, the Tunisian arm of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, after it became known that the par­ty tasked a US pub­lic rela­tions firm to inter­na­tion­al­ly cam­paign in its favor. Accord­ing to the Alara­biya arti­cle:

August 7, 2021 The lob­by­ing attempt in the US is to improve the movement’s image and manip­u­late pub­lic opin­ion to form a pres­sure group against Pres­i­dent Kais Saied after his recent deci­sions. The spokesper­son for the Court of First Instance, Mohsen El-Dali, said in a state­ment to the Tunis African News Agency on Fri­day that the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion is in the process of col­lect­ing data regard­ing a con­tract between an inter­na­tion­al agency for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pub­lic rela­tions and the Ennah­da party.

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to the arti­cle, the con­tro­ver­sy was sparked by a July 2021 $30,000  con­tract between Ennah­da and Bur­son Cohen & Wolfe (BCW). a US-based com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency. Annex­es in the con­tract also showed BCW planned to tar­get mem­bers of US Con­gress and their staffers as well as media per­son­al­i­ties on behalf of Ennahda.

Polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors have ques­tioned whether a recent opin­ion piece in the New York Times authored by Ennah­da leader and for­mer Tunisian par­lia­ment speak­er Rachid Ghan­nouchi was facil­i­tat­ed by BCW. In the piece, Ghan­nouchi accused Tunisian pres­i­dent Kais Saied of car­ry­ing out “an attempt­ed coup against the Con­sti­tu­tion.” On July 25, Kais Saied dis­missed the country’s gov­ern­ment and sus­pend­ed par­lia­ment activ­i­ty using tem­po­rary emer­gency pow­ers and cit­ing pub­lic dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the government’s recent poli­cies. Short­ly after, Tunisian troops were deployed to sur­round the par­lia­ment in Tunis, where they blocked Ghan­nouchi from enter­ing the building.

Under Tunisian law, polit­i­cal par­ties are pro­hib­it­ed from hir­ing for­eign PR agen­cies which also for­bids politi­cians from receiv­ing funds from abroad. Ini­tial­ly, Ennah­da denied that any con­tract with BCW had been signed or that funds had been trans­ferred to anoth­er coun­try. Yet on 3 August 2021, just days after the scan­dal broke, a reg­is­tra­tion state­ment was filed with the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice pur­suant to the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act, which named the “Ennad­ha Par­ty Dias­po­ra Group,” list­ing an address in cen­tral Lon­don as a for­eign prin­ci­pal work­ing togeth­er with BCW.

In mid-July, the Tunisian judi­cia­ry opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into Ennah­da and sev­er­al oth­er par­ties on sus­pi­cion of receiv­ing funds from abroad dur­ing the 2019 elec­tion cam­paign. In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Ennah­da hired Bur­son-Marsteller, one of the largest US pub­lic rela­tions com­pa­nies at the time, to car­ry out pub­lic rela­tions activ­i­ties for the move­ment and improve its for­eign image.

The Ennha­da Par­ty is head­ed by Ghan­nouchi (many spelling vari­a­tions) who can best be described as an inde­pen­dent Islamist pow­er cen­ter and who is strong­ly tied to the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. In May 2021, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed that Rad­wan Mas­mou­di, the founder and Pres­i­dent of the Wash­ing­ton, DC-based Cen­ter for the Study of Islam and Democ­ra­cy (CSID), announced he had left the group to offi­cial­ly join the polit­i­cal office of Ennah­da. From its incep­tion, CSID has argued that the US gov­ern­ment should sup­port Islamist move­ments in for­eign coun­tries, has tak­en posi­tions large­ly con­sis­tent with those of the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, and has enjoyed fre­quent and deep ties with oth­er US Mus­lim Broth­er­hood groups.