A Tunisian judge on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, a fierce critic of President Kais Saied, to three years in prison on charges of accepting external financing, his lawyer Monia Bouali said.
Ghannouchi, 82, the head of the main opposition Ennahda party, has been in prison since April. Last year he was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of incitement against police.
His lawyer, Bouali said the court also imprisoned the 82-year-old opposition leader’s son-in-law Rafik Abdessalem, who is a senior Ennahda official, to three years in prison in the same case. This was in addition to fining the Islamist party $1.1 million.
Last year, Tunisian authorities banned meetings at all Ennahda offices and police closed the headquarters of the Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, in what rights groups called a de facto ban.
Other opposition figures who accuse Saied of a coup say the president has pulled apart the democracy that was built after a 2011 revolution.
Saied suddenly shut down parliament, dismissed the government and moved to rule by decree in July 2021 before rewriting the constitution that he passed through a referendum with a low turnout two years ago.
The opposition leaders have been detained since last year on suspicion of plotting against state security.
He has denied his actions were a coup and said they were needed to save Tunisia from years of chaos. The Tunisian leader has called his critics criminals, traitors and terrorists. He also warned that any judge who freed them would be considered abetting them.
Ghannouchi was in exile before the 2011 revolution that brought democracy and was parliament speaker from the 2019 election until Saied shut down the chamber in 2021.
The opposition and human rights groups accuse Saied of imposing authoritarian rule by imprisoning opponents, muzzling the press, and controlling the judiciary.
Saied, who rejects the accusations, said he will not be a dictator and he will cleanse the country of corruption he said had spread over the past decade.