Former President Marzouki vows to return to Tunisia despite prison sentence

Former President Marzouki vows to return to Tunisia despite prison sentence
Former President Moncef Marzouki has vowed to return to Tunisia soon despite being sentenced to a four-year prison term last week.
2 min read
28 December, 2021
Moncef Marzouki was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison for "endangering" Tunisia's security [Getty]

Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has told The New Arab's sister service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that he intends to return to the country despite being handed a four-year prison sentence in absentia last week.

Speaking from Paris, Marzouki said that he would "wait for advice from leaders in the field" before returning to Tunisia "so that my return will be a substantial addition to ending the coup".

On 25 July, current Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the country's prime minister and suspended parliament in what Marzouki and many other politicians have described as a "coup".

Marzouki, who served as Tunisia's first democratically elected president from 2011 to 2014, was convicted of "assaulting the external security of the state" on 22 December after calling for protests against Saied and urging that a meeting of Francophone countries in Tunisia be moved to a different location.

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In his interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Marzouki said that he had received widespread support after he was sentenced to jail, as a result of "the deep-rooted awareness of rights and the demand for democracy in a wide sector of the political class in Tunisia".

Tunisia has held regular democratic presidential and parliamentary elections since 2011, when a popular uprising ousted long-time dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Until Saied's move against parliament earlier this year, Tunisia was considered the only success story of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Marzouki said that Tunisia was currently suffering from a political and economic crisis as well as a crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, predicting that it was only a matter of time before a political "explosion" happened.

He took aim at President Saied, calling him "incompetent" and "without credibility" and claimed foreign nations and "deep state elements" currently backing the leader could replace him in the same way that former dictator Ben Ali replaced Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourguiba, in 1987, by declaring him "mentally incapable".

Responding to a question from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed regarding why democracy in Tunisia had "failed to protect itself", Marzouki said there was a "regional and international" decision to ensure that all the revolutions of the Arab Spring failed, but said pro-democracy politicians and activists also bore some responsibility.

Tunisian President Saied has received support for his actions from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who have also backed counter-revolutionary movements in Egypt and Libya.