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Opposition Lawmakers in Tunisia Sentenced to Prison

A military appeals court in Tunisia sentenced five opposition lawmakers in parliament to prison, including Al Karama Coalition opposition party leader Seifeddine Makhlouf. The ruling came early on Saturday morning, Makhlouf’s lawyer told the AFP news agency. Makhlouf was sentenced to 14 months in prison after being dragged into court in the middle of the night following a standoff in which dozens of police surrounded his home. Makhlouf has been a prominent critic of Tunisian President Kais Saied.

The lawmakers, all members of Al Karama, were convicted of involvement in a stand-off with security agents at the Tunis-Carthage International Airport in March 2021, when they entered the airport to support a woman who was under a travel ban and prohibited from leaving the country for “security reasons” under a controversial directive put in place by Saied.

The other lawmakers sentenced were Mohamed Afes, Abdellatif Aloui, Meher Zid and Nidal Saoudi, as well as attorney  Mehdi Zagrouba.

The Tunisian presidency’s Facebook page on Friday called for efforts to “tackle all the corrupt and those who believe they are above the law.”

In July 2021, Saied dismissed his government and seized a number of powers by granting himself executive authority in what critics have called a coup; he later announced that he would rule by decree until the approval of a new constitution. In July, about a quarter of the 9 million registered voters in Tunisia turned out for a referendum on a new constitution that gave Saied almost total power by putting the country’s president in supreme command of the army, gave the president full executive control and allows the president to appoint a government without the approval of parliament. Legislative elections were held in the country in December, with a dismal voter turnout of 8.8%, leading to calls by the opposition for Saied’s resignation.