By Sara Rashad
A Tunisian court has increased the prison sentence imposed on the leader of the Ennahda movement, Rachid Ghannouchi, from 12 months to 15 months due to his description of the police as “tyrants.”
While the Tunisian judiciary justified the verdict by claiming that the term was commonly used by extremists, considering that Ghannouchi intended the same meaning when he used the word, the Ennahda movement, known as the “Brotherhood’s arm in Tunisia,” stated in a press release that the term was taken out of context arbitrarily.
In their statement, the movement emphasized that Ghannouchi’s intellectual and political journey over many years demonstrates that he has been one of the most important figures fighting extremist ideologies, radicalism, and terrorism. They renewed their call for the release of the imprisoned and focusing on finding solutions to the country’s economic and social crisis.
Implications of the Verdict
Even though the Tunisian president, Kais Saied, insists on the independence of the judiciary, it does not mean that the Tunisian authorities have not intervened to a degree that raises questions. The trial against Ghannouchi focuses on this particular issue, while other cases remain unresolved. Ghannouchi is accused of more vital and dangerous matters than his use of the term “tyrants.” So, why is this case being prosecuted, specifically, while other cases remain undecided?
In every occasion and celebration, President Saied reiterates his commitment to holding all corrupt and destructive individuals accountable, reflecting the current authority’s determination to prosecute and track Ennahda.
This is evidenced by the detention of approximately 100 leaders associated with the Muslim Brotherhood on charges related to traveling to Syria and Iraq, including former Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh, former Justice Minister Nourreddine Bhiri, and former Brotherhood parliamentarian Mohamed Ferjani.
Tunisian authorities are compelled to expedite the resolution of the cases of individuals who joined Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the post-2011 period to reveal the details of their travel and those behind it. This is particularly important as the pretrial detention period for the imprisoned Ennahda leaders has almost come to an end since late last year.
The Tunisian law specifies a maximum pretrial detention period of 14 months, which means that the imprisoned Ennahda leaders can escape punishment if they are not convicted.
Therefore, Tunisian parliament member Fatma Lemseddi called for taking advantage of the restoration of Tunisian-Syrian relations, as she mentioned on her Facebook account. She argued that Syrian authorities possess precise and vital information about the parties involved in sending young people to conflict zones and facilitating their travels within a well-organized political context.
She emphasized the need for expediency and time-saving, either by forming a judicial and security team to visit Syrian territories to interrogate the terrorists detained there or by resorting to international judicial delegation to acquire all the necessary information that should be added to the Tunisian investigation file, considering the possibility of surrendering these elements.
It is worth noting that the Tunisian Ambassador to Damascus, Mohamed Al-Mahdhabi, stated a month ago that his country’s authorities are cooperating with their Syrian counterparts to untangle a complex issue related to Tunisian terrorists in Syria.
The Tunisian analyst, Khalil Rafik, agrees with this perspective and expects an official Tunisian move in the coming months to confirm Ennahda’s guilt and resolve the youth recruitment issue. He asserted to “Al-Mirat” that the harsher penalty against Ghannouchi confirms the Tunisian authorities’ determination to hold Ennahda accountable for all the charges leveled against them, whether it be sending young people, receiving foreign funding, or money laundering.