By Tarek Amara
TUNIS (Reuters) – A Tunisian military court on Wednesday handed down a one-year suspended jail sentence on Chaima Issa, a prominent opponent of President Kais Saied, in what the opposition said was part of a broader crackdown on dissent.
Issa was charged with inciting the army to disobey and insult the president, her lawyer, Islem Hamza, said. Issa had denied wrongdoing.`
She had criticised Saied’s efforts to create what she called a “tyranny” and said that parliamentary elections in 2022 were useless and called on the army not to be involved.
Issa had already been detained in February along with 20 other political leaders on suspicion of plotting against state security in what the opposition said was an attempt to establish authoritarian rule by Saied, who in 2021 dissolved parliament and seized wide-ranging powers. Issa was freed in July.
Rights groups have urged authorities to free the other detainees. Saied has described them as terrorists and traitors and says judges who free them would be abetting their crimes.
Wednesday’s suspended jail sentence is widely seen by opposition as a further step aimed at silencing critics.
“The military court does not have the authority to try opponents. Opinion trials must end,” said Samir Dilou, a senior official in Salvation Front, a main opposition coalition.
“A country in which there was a revolution against injustice would not have the right to put opponents on trial for their ideas and opinions,” Dilou, also a lawyer for Issa, added.
Issa said before her appearance in court: “Tunisia was a beacon of freedom, but today it has become a large prison where free opinion is besieged.”
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Nick Macfie)