Tunisia military court jails four opposition legislators

Karama party members were charged with assault

Seifeddine Makhlouf, Tunisian parliament member and spokesperson of the Al Karama coalition, gestures outside the Parliament which was cordoned-off by the military in the capital Tunis, following a move by the president to suspend the country's parliament and dismiss the Prime Minister.  AFP
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Four opposition politicians from Tunisia's dissolved parliament were jailed by a military court on assault charges, their lawyer said on Tuesday.

Saif Eddine Makhlouf, the head of the conservative Karama Party, and three other party members were charged with assaulting policemen last year during an incident at Tunis airport, where they said the officers were preventing a woman from travelling. They denied the charge.

The military court issued five-month prison sentences for Makhlouf and Nidhal Saoudi and three-month terms to Mohamed Affas and Meher Zid, their lawyer Anaour Awled Ali told Reuters.

Last year, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament, and assumed all governing powers, a move described by Tunisian opposition parties as a coup.

Mr Saied had promised to uphold the rights and freedoms won in Tunisia's 2011 revolution, which ushered in democracy and triggered a series of uprisings across the region.

Since his intervention, several senior politicians and business leaders have been detained or prosecuted, many of them on charges of corruption or defamation.

The politicians lost their immunity from prosecution after parliament was dissolved.

Mr Saied faces internal and external criticism that he uses the judiciary, including the military, against his opponents. He rejects this and says that he will not be a dictator

Ongoing unrest

A crowd estimated at more than 2,000 on Sunday took part in the first demonstration by a new alliance to oppose Mr Saied's power grab.

"The people want democracy" and "Saied has led the country to starvation" were two slogans chanted by the protesters at the main rally in central Tunis, the biggest against him in months, a week after a much smaller demonstration in his support.

"It has become clear that the street supports a return to the democratic path," said Samira Chaouachi, the deputy leader of the dissolved parliament who, like Mr Saied's other opponents, accuses him of a coup.

Mr Saied's initial power grab was welcomed by many Tunisians sick of the post-revolution political system.

The Tunisian president denies a coup, saying his intervention was legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation at the hands of a corrupt, self-serving elite who had taken control of government.

He has replaced a judicial council that guaranteed judges' independence as well as the independent electoral commission, casting doubt on the integrity of the legal process and of elections.

"Our peaceful resistance will continue in the street until we restore our freedom and democracy," said one of the protesters, Tijani Tizaoui, who said he had been imprisoned before the revolution for protesting.

Updated: May 18, 2022, 7:05 AM