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Tunisia Islamist Leader Returns From Exile


Tunisians ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt in January.

Tunisians ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt in January.

The head of Tunisia's main Islamist movement, Rachid Ghannouchi, has returned to Tunisia after more than 20 years in exile.

Ghannouchi, who was living in London, was greeted by thousands of supporters at Tunis airport upon his return -- many of whom expressed concerns that he could be arrested by the police.

His return follows the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt by Tunisians earlier in January.

Ghannouchi, 69, was forced into exile under Ben Ali's rule, and his Ennahda (Awakening) movement had been officially banned under Ben Ali.

Ghannounchi returns after Tunisia's interim government announced an easing of restrictions on political parties.

Ghannouchi has described Ennahda as now being similar in outlook to Turkey's ruling Justice And Development Party.

He told Reuters news agency ahead of his return to Tunisia that he hoped his movement would be able to participate in a new multiparty political system in Tunisia, and that the movement could campaign in fair democratic elections.

compiled from agency reports
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