Military court hands Issa one-year suspended sentence for insulting the president, inciting soldiers to disobey orders.
A prominent Tunisian opposition activist has been handed a one-year suspended prison sentence for insulting the president, her lawyer says.
Chaima Issa was convicted by a military court on Wednesday of inciting soldiers to disobey orders and insulting President Kais Saied, Islem Hamza said. Issa denies wrongdoing.
The charges relate to comments Issa made accusing Saied of trying to create “tyranny”, saying parliamentary elections in 2022 were useless and calling on the army not to be involved.
Issa’s sentence is widely seen by Tunisia’s opposition as a step to silence Saied’s critics.
The president, who was democratically elected in October 2019, launched a power grab in July 2021, ousting the former parliament and prime minister and giving himself sweeping emergency powers. He has since pushed through a new constitution to weaken parliament and cracked down on his political opponents.
Issa herself was among 20 political leaders detained in February on suspicion of “plotting against state security”. She was released in July pending her trial.
Rights groups have urged authorities to free the other political detainees, including former parliament speaker and leader of the Ennahdha party Rached Ghannouchi.
Saied has rejected such calls, describing the detainees as “terrorists” and “traitors” and warning that judges who release them would be abetting their crimes.
Issa, a member of the National Salvation Front coalition, said after a court hearing on Tuesday that Saied’s opponents were being treated like “criminals”.
“We are not criminals,” she said. “We are not plotters. We are not traitors. We are politicians, opponents of the coup of July 25, 2021.”
‘Opinion trials must end’
Rights activists slammed Issa’s conviction and the fact that she was tried under a military court.
“She should have never been prosecuted for expressing her opinions nor tried by a military court,” Salsabil Chellali of Human Rights Watch said on X, formerly Twitter.
En #Tunisie, la militante Chaima Issa vient d’être condamnée à un an de prison avec sursis par un tribunal militaire pour avoir critiqué le président Kais Saied. Elle n’aurait jamais dû être poursuivie pour avoir exprimé ses opinions, ni jugée par un tribunal militaire @hrw_fr https://t.co/Yc8lJ8zzS5
— Salsabil Chellali (@SaChellali) December 13, 2023
Samir Dilou, a senior official in the National Salvation Front and a lawyer for Issa, said: “The military court does not have the authority to try opponents. Opinion trials must end.”
“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 said.