Tunisia sentences Saied's opponent Ghannouchi to one year prison

A Tunisian court has sentenced Rached Ghannouchi, one of the main opponents of Tunisian President Kais Saied, to a year in prison on terrorism-related charges, local media reported.

Ghannouchi, 81, a former speaker of parliament, was arrested last month over different accusations, part of what Human Rights Watch (HRW) called last week a move "to neutralise the country's largest political party".

He had appeared in court on terror-related charges at the end of February after being accused of calling police officers "tyrants".

The case is one of several levied by authorities against Ghannouchi, whose Ennahdha party was the largest in parliament before Saied dissolved the chamber in July 2021.

He is among more than 20 of Saied's political opponents and personalities, including former ministers and business figures, arrested since February.

His detention last month, along with the others, drew international concern, including from the European Union which recalled the importance of the "fundamental principle of political pluralism".

'Troubling escalation'

The United States said the arrests "represent a troubling escalation by the Tunisian government against perceived opponents".

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters that Berlin viewed Ghannouchi's arrest "with the greatest concern" and cautioned that the "democratic achievements in Tunisia since 2011 must not be lost".

Saied, 65, claims those detained were "terrorists" involved in a "conspiracy against state security".

Opponents have dubbed his actions a "coup" and a reversal of democratic achievements that emerged after the Arab Spring uprisings in the region more than a decade ago.

The main opposition alliance, the National Salvation Front (FSN), of which Ennahdha is a member, said at the time that he had been held on suspicion of "plotting against state security".

Ennahdha rejected any intention of Ghannouchi to call for a civil war, saying it "strongly condemns an unjust ruling which aims to cover up the total failure of the authorities to solve economic and social problems".