Tunisia president's former aide gets suspended jail sentence

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2012 7:23 PM
Tunisia president's former aide gets suspended jail sentence

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian military court handed down a suspended prison sentence to President Moncef Marzouki's former aide who criticized the army's role, in a case that may raise concerns about freedoms in the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts.

Ayoub Massoudi publicly accused the head of the army Rachid Ammar in August of throwing his weight behind the Islamist-led government's decision to extradite Muammar Gaddafi's prime minister Baghadi al-Mahmoudi to Libya in June.

A military court in Tunis gave Massoudi a four-month suspended jail sentence for "insulting the army and hurting the military establishment's image". However, it lifted a travel ban imposed when he was charged in August.

The extradition of Libya's Mahmoudi sparked a political row in Tunisia.

President Marzouki, a veteran human rights and secular activist, said he had not been consulted and withheld his permission for months over concerns the Libyan official might not receive a fair trial.

His aide, Massoudi, resigned two days after the extradition. He told Reuters the case against him was political but said the verdict would not muzzle him.

"It (verdict) seeks to confirm the military institution as scared and exempt from criticism," he said.

The case comes at a sensitive time for Tunisian politics, which are already marred by disputes over a new constitution and protests by Tunisians eager to see authorities fulfill the promise of their revolution.

Secular opposition parties have accused the government, led by the Islamic Ennahda Movement, of muzzling free speech, a charge it dismisses.

(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Writing by Souhail Karam; Editing by Sophie Hares)