In Tunisia, the president wants to silence critical voices



The trials for “Offense to the president” or to the army targeting critical voices are intensifying in Tunisia even though, since the end of July, President Kaïs Saïed has concentrated all the powers and has lifted the parliamentary immunity of deputies.

The very unpopular ex-president Moncef Marzouki recently paid the price. He was sentenced in abstentia to four years in prison for comments “Going against the security of the State and harming the interests of Tunisia abroad”. An international arrest warrant was even issued against him, the person living in France. “His trial was very short and reveals an attempt to instrumentalize justice, denounces Oumayma Jabnouni of the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH), which is alarmed by the many trials targeting political figures and activists for simple remarks critical of the government or the police.

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Moncef Marzouki “Has the right to a fair trial, it is a fundamental principle that we defend”, continues Oumayma Jabnouni. “Being a former politician becomes an aggravating factor: they are being targeted. “ On Saturday, December 25, during a meeting with the head of government Najla Bouden, the LTDH called for an end to the prosecution of civilians in military courts and was concerned to see old cases suddenly resurface.

More civilians prosecuted in military courts

That of Bochra Belhadj Hmida, former member of parliament, feminist figure and critic of the president, questions. Sentenced in absentia Friday, December 24 to six months in prison for remarks against a former minister, she said to herself ” surprised ” that this affair resurfaces when the minister himself forgot about it and withdrewhis complaint. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the National Union of Tunisian Journalists denounce this acceleration of prosecutions against personalities. Amnesty notes that there are more civilians prosecuted by military courts since July than between 2011 and 2018.

For political scientist Elyes Ghanmi, this is a “Judicial repression” led by a feverish power. “In an authoritarian regime that takes hold, there will always be judges who will be zealous to please the power in place. It is all the easier when it comes to condemning unpopular personalities ”, he believes. The case of MP Yassine Ayari is the perfect example. The prosecutor indicted him for comments posted on Facebook in July in which he allegedly offended the president and defamed the military. In his messages, he called the president’s measures ” military coup “.

“The era is on trial for those perceived as powerful”

After a decade of failures by the political elite, “The era is on trial against those previously perceived as powerful”, observes Elyes Ghanmi. Oumayma Jabnouni ensures that the LTDH will continue to monitor legal attacks and abuses, regardless of the political camp or the status of the person accused.

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Without going so far as to talk about repression, the human rights defender incriminates “Bad judicial practices supported by repressive laws dating from the Ben Ali era. We fear above all attacks on increasing freedoms in January at a time when demonstrations usually multiply ”, she adds. Especially since the socio-economic situation is only worsening with, as a consequence, the decline in popularity of Kaïs Saïed.

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