In Tunisia, Rached Ghannouchi sentenced to three additional years in prison

Incarcerated since April 2023 for having mentioned a risk of “civil war” in Tunisia, the leader of the Islamist party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, 82, was sentenced, Thursday, February 1, to three years in prison for illicit foreign financing

In Tunisia, Rached Ghannouchi sentenced to three additional years in prison

Incarcerated since April 2023 for having mentioned a risk of “civil war” in Tunisia, the leader of the Islamist party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, 82, was sentenced, Thursday, February 1, to three years in prison for illicit foreign financing. The Tunis court also sentenced the son-in-law of the president of the Tunisian parliament dissolved in July 2021, Rafik Abdessalem, to the same sentence and his party to a fine of more than one million euros. In May 2023, a few days after his arrest and the banning of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi had already been sentenced to one year in prison, after calling the police “tyrants”. The sentence was increased on appeal to 15 months’ imprisonment.

This new conviction comes in the context of an official fight against the illicit financing of political parties in Tunisia. The legislative framework prohibits any funding from foreign sources and establishes strict rules regarding electoral campaign spending. In 2020, the Court of Auditors pointed out numerous irregularities that occurred during the 2019 elections. The jurisdiction relied, among other things, on information published by the American Department of Justice, revealing that Ennahda had for its international communication and obtained the support of foreign leaders, concluded more than one million euros of contracts between 2014 and 2019 in the United States.

Among the political figures singled out by the Supreme Court was also Nabil Karoui, opponent of Kaïs Saïed in the second round of the 2019 presidential election. Several times incarcerated - including during the 2019 electoral campaign - Nabil Karoui, whose party allied with Ennahda after the election, left Tunisia in August 2021. After a few months of detention in Algeria, he went into exile in Europe. Tunisian justice sentenced him in absentia in April 2023 to a year in prison and a heavy fine in a lobbying case similar to that of Ennahda.

Around twenty opponents imprisoned

Since his coup of July 25, 2021, Kaïs Saïed, with full powers, has allowed the arrest of several political leaders. The latest opponent to join the Tunisian cells, Abir Moussi, the president of the Free Destourian Party (PDL), an anti-Islamist group bringing together sympathizers of the former regime of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali but also those nostalgic for Habib Bourguiba, was arrested and detained in October.

Around twenty opponents are today incarcerated in Tunisia, accused of conspiracy against state security, corruption or money laundering. Dozens of other people, former senior officials, activists, lawyers, judges or journalists, are subject to various legal proceedings, banned from traveling or have gone into exile.

Since his election in 2019 against a backdrop of rejection of the established order, the Tunisian president has continued to invoke this popular distrust to legitimize his actions against the main political representatives. Those who exercised power during the ten years following the 2010-2011 revolution were his first targets. Kaïs Saïed thus succeeded in weakening all intermediary bodies, political parties, unions, civil society organizations and the media. Repeatedly thanks to the accusation of collusion with foreign powers.