Tunisia’s former speaker Rached Ghannouchi sentenced to year in jail

Ennahda party leader has been in pre-trial detention for more than a month

The leader of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, arrives at the office of the counter-terrorism prosecutor in February 2023. EPA
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The leader of Tunisia's opposition party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, was sentenced to one year in prison by a Tunisian judge on Monday.

The former house speaker has been in pre-trial detention for more than a month and was not in court for the sentencing.

His party said the judge at the Tunis Court of First Instance sentenced him to a year in prison and fined him 1,000 Tunisian dinars ($326) for the “glorification of terrorism".

"The judge issued the verdict without hearing the lawyer's defence."

Mr Ghannouchi, 81, appeared in court at the end of February after a police union filed a case against him, accusing him of calling officers "tyrants".

The case is in reference to a eulogy delivered by the Ennahda leader at a party member's funeral in February 2021.

Ennahda has repeatedly denied the allegations relating to the case and said that the use of word "tyrant" was taken out of its context.

"Mr Ghannouchi, in his speech, mentioned that Mr Laabar [the deceased] was someone who had struggled for freedom, who had feared neither poverty nor ruler nor dictator, which referred to the late person’s peaceful struggle against the dictatorships of presidents [Habib] Bourguiba and [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali," Ennahda said.

A growing number of opposition figures have been arrested in Tunisia in recent weeks, including members of the National Salvation Front and its main member, Ennahda.

The arrests and prosecutions, which also involved businessmen and journalists, have drawn concern from the US, the EU Parliament, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Tunisian president Kais Saied froze Parliament in July 2021 and single-handedly pushed through sweeping changes to the country’s political system.

Mr Saied has repeatedly described those detained as terrorists and accused them, without providing evidence, of plotting against Tunisia’s national security.

Critics accused him of meddling in the judiciary’s authority and using his authority to influence the investigation.

Updated: May 15, 2023, 10:22 PM