Tunisian opposition party Ennahda denounces 'political verdict' against jailed leader Rached Ghannouchi
Tunisia's Ennahda party on Tuesday condemned the one-year prison sentence handed to its leader Rached Ghannouchi, calling it an "unjust political verdict".
Ghannouchi, a leading opponent of President Kais Saied, was sentenced on Monday on terrorism-related charges following his 17 April arrest.
He had appeared in court at the end of February on the charges after being accused of calling police officers "tyrants".
The case was one of several levied by authorities against Ghannouchi, whose Islamist-inspired party was the largest in parliament before Saied dissolved the chamber in July 2021 as part of a power grab allowing him to rule by decree.
Prior to his detention, the 81-year-old former parliamentary speaker had said that eradicating different viewpoints, such as the left or political Islam, might lead to a "civil war".
"We condemn the sentence handed down against Rached Ghannouchi, which we consider an unjust political verdict, and we call for his release," Ennahda said in a statement.
Ghannouchi had a history of rejecting "in his statements and writings, extremism and terrorism and advocated moderation", the statement added.
The sentence further demonstrated the authorities' use of "the anti-terrorism law to discredit and eradicate opposition", said Salsabil Chellali, Human Rights Watch's Tunisia director.
Ghannouchi's arrest and subsequent prison term were "both based on public declarations by the leader of Ennahda", she added.
"Now under Saied's presidency, Tunisian political life is punctuated by arbitrary arrests, against a backdrop of interference by the executive in judicial affairs."
In addition to the one-year prison sentence, Ghannouchi was fined 1,000 dinars ($326).
Ghannouchi had already been in court last November over allegations his party had helped jihadists travel to Iraq and Syria.
Before that, he was interrogated over alleged money laundering in relation to foreign donations for an Ennahda-linked charity.
Ghannouchi is the most prominent opposition figure arrested following President Saied's power grab.
He is among more than 20 of Saied's political opponents and personalities arrested since February, including former ministers and business figures.