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Tunisia refers 4 ex-PMs to trial for 'electoral violations'

Tunisia charges former PMs and top politicians with electoral crimes in what some see as a post coup crackdown

The Court of First Instance in Tunis yesterday referred 19 people to trial for "electoral violations", including the head of the Ennahda movement, Rachid Ghannouchi, and former President Moncef Marzouki, Anadolu reported.

A statement issued by the Information and Communication Office of the Court of First Instance said the defendants were referred to trial "for committing electoral crimes during the 2019 elections such as the use of illegal electoral propaganda through social media and propaganda during the electoral silence period," in reference to the days just prior to the election when parties are banned from canvassing.

According to the statement, the referred defendants also include Nabil Karoui, the head of the Heart of Tunisia party and a presidential candidate during the 2019 elections, and former Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zubaidi.

They also include four former prime ministers: Youssef Chahed, Elyes Fakhfakh, Mehdi Jomaa and Hamadi Jebali.

The court's decision is based on a report by the Court of Accounts regarding the early presidential elections in 2019.

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Tunisia has witnessed an increase in the arrest, house arrest and abduction of former officials, in what rights groups have said are part of current President Kais Saied's efforts to silence the opposition.

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September and a government has since been formed. Last month, Saied announced that a referendum will be held on 25 July to consider 'constitutional reforms' and elections would follow in December 2022.

The majority of the country's political parties slammed the move as a "coup against the constitution" and the achievements of the 2011 revolution. Critics say Saied's decisions have strengthened the powers of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the government, and that he aims to transform the country's government into a presidential system.

On more than one occasion, Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, said that his exceptional decisions are not a coup, but rather measures within the framework of the constitution to protect the state from "imminent danger".

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