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Tunisia: Ennahda leader Ghannouchi handed new jail term

Tunisia: Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi handed new jail term over 'illegal financing of party'
2 min read
02 February, 2024
Ghannouchi's new sentencing is the latest demonstration of Kais Saied's crackdown on opposition figures since his power grab in 2021.
Rached Ghannouchi is among the most prominent figureheads of the Tunisian opposition and critics of Saied [Getty/file photo]

Rached Ghannouchi, the jailed leader of the Tunisian opposition party Ennahda, was sentenced Thursday to a new three-year prison term for the illegal financing of his party, his lawyer said.

A rival of Tunisia's President Kais Saied, Ghannouchi - who was already serving a 15-month prison sentence over charges related to "terrorism" - was sentenced for receiving "foreign financing" for the Islamist party, his lawyer Sami Triki told AFP.

His son-in-law Rafik Abdessalam, a former foreign minister, was tried in absentia in the same case and also sentenced to three years in prison.

In addition to the prison sentences for Ghannouchi and his son-in-law, Ennahda was ordered to pay a fine of $1.17 million.

Ghannouchi, 82, was arrested in April 2023 for inciting violence and plotting against state security, after he said that eradicating differing political viewpoints from left-wing or Islamist parties might lead to a "civil war" in the North African country.

He was convicted last May and sentenced to 12 months in jail, which was then lengthened to 15 months on appeal in October.

His conviction followed a complaint from a police union over comments he had made in early 2022 during the funeral of an Ennahda official.

He had said the official "did not fear the powerful nor tyrants", a comment which prosecutors said disparaged police officers.

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"Ghannouchi has been in jail for a year at the doing of the prince (Saied)," veteran politician Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, who heads Tunisia's main opposition coalition the National Salvation Front, told AFP on Thursday.

"He has no guarantee of a fair trial. He has refused to present himself for trial, and he has my complete backing.

"When there is respect for human rights and freedoms and justice is independent, then we can talk about a fair trial," Chebbi added.

"All that's happening now is those in power taking revenge on their adversaries."

Ghannouchi, whose party dominated Tunisia following the 2011 revolt that toppled the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, is the most well-known opposition figure imprisoned since Saied's power grab in July 2021.

Rights groups have since reported a crackdown on opposition figures, including politicians and businessmen.

They include the arrest on October 5 last year and jailing of Abir Moussi, head of the Free Destourian Party, a movement often described as nostalgic for the dictatorship independence hero Habib Bourguiba and his successor Ben Ali.