Tunisia: Court annuls journalist’s five year sentence

journalist, Guesmi has his five-year sentence annuled

A Tunisian journalist has escaped a five-year prison sentence after a Tunisian court overturned his ruling, according to AFP.

On 3rd September 2023, Mosaique FM journalist, Khalifa Guesmi fell victim to President Saied’s practice of imprisoning those who rage against his regime.

Guesmi was convicted in November 2023 and was issued a year long prison sentence that was later increased to five years on appeal. However, Guesmi’s lawyer hopes that the recent withdrawal of the extended sentence can pave the way towards a retrial.

Attorney Rahal Jallali revealed that although Guesmi was released on Wednesday evening on 6th March, he remains under prosecution for publishing information “for the benefit of a terrorist organisation.” The anti-terrorism law under Article 34 details that this offense is punishable by “10 to 20 years imprisonment.”

Before Guesmi’s release, journalists and civil society representatives called for Guesmi’s freedom in Tunis. Global NGOs also advocated for his release, declaring the five-year sentence a “sham verdict” and a “major setback for the judicial system.”

READ: Tunisia’s Saied Focuses on Journalists, Assaults Rise

Guesmi is not the first Mosaique FM journalist to face Saied’s regime as in May 2023, two of the station’s top broadcasters were questioned by police. Haythem El Mekki and Elyess Gharbi aired their concerns about Tunisia’s methods of police recruitment after a National Guard killed three policemen and two visitors in a synagogue attack, Al Jazeera reported.

In January this year, Tunisia’s autocratic leader arrested Al Jazeera journalist, Samir Sassi who was detained by “anti-terrorism” personnel.

The National Union of Journalists reported in an open letter to President Saied that over 30 journalists were arrested in 2023, using the “provisions of Decree 54 of the Telecommunications Code and the Law on Combatting Terrorism and Money Laundering.”

Saied’s war with the press and activists who defy him has earned him a reputation as an authoritarian leader who arrests “all of his opponents,” such as Ennahda Movement leader, Rached Ghannouchi and politician Jawhar Ben Mbarek.

READ: Tunisia: thousands protest about economic blues

Although Saied has not confirmed his campaign for a second term in this year’s presidential elections, in the parliamentary elections of January 2023, Saied blamed the low turnout on voters’ hatred towards parliament instead of the decline in his popularity.

AFP/Al Jazeera/NUJ


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