Tunisia’s Ghannouchi sentenced to a year in prison: Lawyer

Opposition leader Ghannouchi was arrested in April, and sentenced after being charged with incitement, as crackdown on opposition continues.

A portrait of Rached Ghannouchi, of the Ennahda party taken in his office.
Rached Ghannouchi had been found guilty on charges of incitement [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

The Tunisian opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi has been sentenced in absentia to a year in prison, his lawyer told the Reuters news agency.

Ghannouchi had been found guilty on Monday on charges of incitement, according to Monia Bouali.

Ghannouchi, who was the speaker of the Tunisian parliament before it was suspended by the country’s President Kais Saied in July 2021, was arrested in late April pending a trial, on suspicion of plotting against state security.

Earlier this month Ghannouchi refused to appear before the judiciary, rejecting what he said were fabricated political trials.

Saied has conducted an ongoing crackdown against the country’s opposition since his suspension of parliament. Numerous opposition figures have been detained in recent months, many of them from Ghannouchi’s Ennahda Party, formerly the biggest in parliament.

Former law professor Saied, elected in 2019 amid public anger against the political class, gave himself powers to rule and legislate by decree and seized control over the judiciary in what rivals saw as a blow to democracy in the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

An increasing array of critics have said he has moved the country, which also faces a grinding economic crisis, down a dangerous path back towards autocracy.

Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia from his exile to a triumphant welcome in January 2011 after longtime leader President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had fled the country following weeks of protests.

In October 2011, Ennahda emerged as the largest party in the country’s first parliamentary elections since the removal of Ben Ali, winning 37 percent of the vote.

It was only in 2019 that Ghannouchi ran for a leadership role within the government, becoming parliament speaker.

Tunisia’s democratic gains have been swept away as Saied dismantled democratic institutions and pushed for a controversial referendum on a new constitution, giving his office vastly expanded powers.

Saied maintains that Tunisia needs a strong presidency to enable the officeholder to act quickly and decisively.

Source: Reuters