Tunisia Court Sentences Ex-president Marzouki to Four Years in Prison

Marzouki has described President Saied's seizure of powers in July as a coup and called for protests against him

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File: Former President of Tunisia Moncef Marzouki in 2014.
File: Former President of Tunisia Moncef Marzouki in 2014.Credit: AP / Richard Drew

A Tunisian court on Wednesday issued a verdict in absentia sentencing former president Moncef Marzouki to four years in prison after he criticised President Kais Saied and called for further protests against his efforts to cement his rule.

The court found against Marzouki on charges of "assaulting the external security of the state", according to the state news agency TAP.

Marzouki, who lives in Paris, has described Saied's seizure of powers in July as a coup, called for protests against him and urged that a major international meeting of French-speaking countries be moved from Tunisia.

Saied has rejected accusations that his seizure of powers, suspension of parliament in July and plans to change the constitution are a coup. He said he acted to end protracted political deadlock and announced Monday a constitutional referendum to be held next year followed by parliamentary elections by the end of 2022.

Saied's power grab had initially garnered widespread support in a country marred by political paralysis and economic stagnation, but has since faced growing opposition. 

Foreign donors needed to help address a looming crisis in Tunisia's public finances have urged Saied to restore normal constitutional order and say democracy and freedom of speech are important to their relationship with the North African country.

Last Friday, thousands of Tunisians took to the streets to protest Saied's rule on the 10th anniversary of the uprising that removed autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. 

Protests against Saied have been ongoing since July.

After Tunisia's 2011 revolution that introduced democracy, an elected assembly appointed Marzouki as the interim president, overseeing the transition to a new constitution in 2014.

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