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Tunisian opposition leader Ghannouchi sentenced to three years in prison

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A Tunisian judge on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, a fierce critic of President Kais Saied, to three year in prison on charges of accepting external financing, his lawyer Monia Bouali told Reuters.

Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Islamist Ennahda party and former speaker of the parliament, during an interview with Reuters at his office in Tunis, Tunisia, July 15, 2022. Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

A Tunisian judge on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, a fierce critic of President Kais Saied, to three year in prison on charges of accepting external financing, his lawyer Monia Bouali told Reuters.

Ghannouchi, 82, head of the Ennahda main opposition party, has been in prison since April. Last year he was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of incitement against police.

Bouali added that the court also imprisoned Ghannouchi’s son-in-law Rafik Abdessalem who is a senior Ennahda official, to three years in prison in the same case, in addition to fining the Islamist party $1.1 million.

Last year, Tunisian authorities banned meetings at all Ennahda offices and police closed the headquarters of the Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, in what rights groups called a de facto ban.

Other opposition figures who accuse Saied of a coup they say has pulled apart the democracy built after a 2011 revolution have been detained since last year on suspicion of plotting against state security.

Saied suddenly shut down parliament, dismissed the government and moved to rule by decree in July 2021 before rewriting the constitution that he passed through a referendum with a low turnout two years ago.

He has denied his actions were a coup and said they were needed to save Tunisia from years of chaos. He has called his critics criminals, traitors and terrorists and warned that any judge who freed them would be considered abetting them.

Ghannouchi was in exile before the 2011 revolution that brought democracy, and was parliament speaker from the 2019 election until Saied shut down the chamber in 2021.

The opposition and human rights groups accuse Saied of imposing authoritarian rule by imprisoning opponents, muzzling the press, and controlling the judiciary.

Saied, who rejects the accusations, said he will not be a dictator and he will cleanse the country of corruption he said had spread over the past decade.

Reporting by Enas Alashray and Clauda Tanios and Tarek Amara

 

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