Tunisia's Islamo-conservative movement Ennahdha on Tuesday denounced the one-year prison sentence handed down to its leader Rached Ghannouchi, the main opponent of President Kais Saied, calling it an "unjust political verdict.
Mr. Ghannouchi, 81, has been imprisoned since April 17 after claiming that Tunisia would be threatened with a "civil war" if left-wing parties or those of political Islam such as Ennahdha were eliminated.
But his sentence on Monday to one year in prison for "apology of terrorism" is related to another case in which he was heard in February by the judicial division against terrorism before being released.
His hearing followed a complaint filed by a police union that accused him of inciting Tunisians to kill each other, for having said in early 2022 at the funeral of a leader of Ennahdha that the deceased "did not fear the rulers or tyrants.
"We condemn the sentence against Rached Ghannouchi, which we consider an unjust political verdict, and we call for his release," Ennahdha said in a statement.
The movement said that Mr. Ghannouchi, who led the parliament dissolved by Mr. Saied when he took full powers in July 2021, "rejected, in his statements and writings, extremism and terrorism and advocated moderation.
The Tunisia director of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, Salsabil Chellali, called the verdict against Mr. Ghannouchi "another demonstration of the authorities' use of the anti-terrorism law to discredit and eradicate the opposition.
This judgment as well as the arrest of Mr. Ghannouchi were based "on public statements by the leader of Ennahda," noted Ms. Chellali. "From now on under the presidency of Saied, Tunisian political life is punctuated by arbitrary arrests, against a background of interference by the executive in judicial matters," she added.
In addition to the one-year prison sentence, Mr. Ghannouchi was fined 1,000 dinars (300 euros).
The opponent, a bête noire of President Saied, had also been heard in November 2022 by a judge of the anti-terrorist judicial division for a case related to the alleged sending of jihadists to Syria and Iraq.
Mr. Ghannouchi is the most notorious opponent arrested since President Saied's coup.
Since the beginning of February, the authorities have detained more than 20 opponents and personalities including former ministers, businessmen, and the owner of the country's most listened-to radio station, Mosaïque FM.