In a development that has attracted local media attention, Rached Ghannouchi, a prominent opponent of Tunisian President Kais Saied, has been handed a one-year prison sentence on charges related to terrorism.
Ghannouchi, 81, a former speaker of parliament, was taken into custody last month on various allegations, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) described as an attempt “to undermine the country’s largest political party.”
The accusations against Ghannouchi include making derogatory remarks about police officers, leading to charges related to terrorism.
He faced trial in late February, during which these charges were brought against him.
This case is one among several that have been filed against Ghannouchi, whose Ennahdha party held the majority in parliament before President Saied dissolved the chamber in July 2021.
Since February, over 20 of Saied’s political opponents, including former ministers and business figures, have been arrested, sparking international concerns.
The European Union emphasized the importance of upholding the “fundamental principle of political pluralism.”
Ennahdha, responding to the latest developments, criticized the “unjust imprisonment” of Ghannouchi and expressed disappointment with the extension of his detention by the judge.
The party condemned the ruling as an attempt to divert attention from the authorities’ failure to address economic and social challenges.
The arrests and subsequent actions by President Saied have drawn criticism from various quarters.
The United States described the arrests as a “troubling escalation” by the Tunisian government against perceived opponents.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressed deep concern over Ghannouchi’s detention, highlighting the need to preserve Tunisia’s democratic achievements since the Arab Spring uprisings.
President Saied, however, has labeled the detained individuals as “terrorists” involved in a conspiracy against the state’s security.
Meanwhile, his opponents argue that his actions constitute a “coup” and a rollback of the democratic progress made since the Arab Spring movements over a decade ago.
The National Salvation Front (FSN), the main opposition alliance, which includes Ennahdha, previously stated that Ghannouchi was detained on suspicion of plotting against state security. Ennahdha, for its part, firmly rejected any allegations of Ghannouchi inciting civil unrest and instead placed blame on the authorities for their inability to address socioeconomic issues effectively.