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Tunisia Opposition Leader’s Jail Sentence Extended For ‘Supporting Terrorism’

A court of appeal extended the prison sentence of the leader of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party, Rached Ghannouchi, to 15 months for “supporting terrorism and inciting hatred,” according to a statement issued by his Ennahdha party, on Tuesday.

The lower court’s ruling, handed down in May, had sentenced Ghannouchi to 12 months in prison and imposed a fine of 1,000 Tunisian dinars ($314) for allegedly referring to police officers as “tyrants” at the funeral of a former Ennahda leader in 2022, who, Ghanouchi said, “did not fear the rulers or the tyrants.”

Ennahda attacked both the trial as a “sham” and the appellate decision, asserting that the latter proved the Tunisian judiciary’s “obedience to the agenda” of the country’s executive power, and he accused the government of manipulating the judiciary to target political opponents and repress free expression.

The Leader of the Islamist Ennahda party had been arrested in April for allegedly inciting and planning actions against state security. He had spoken out publicly against the silencing of differing political opinions, fearing it could spark a “civil war.” The Tunisian Court of First Instance sentenced him to one year in prison for “glorifying terrorism” and “inciting a civil war” among Tunisians.

In late September, while in detention, Ghannouchi began a hunger strike in solidarity with other Tunisian political detainees and in protest of what his party called an “unjust political verdict.”

Ghannouchi previously held the position of Speaker of Tunisia’s Parliament’s until President Kais Saied dissolved the body in the summer of 2021, thus empowering himself to rule by decree.

Since February, more than 20 Tunisian political opponents and businesses have been imprisoned for “plotting” against internal security, raising fears about the shrinking space for political dissent in a country that was once considered a model for Arab democracy.