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Tunisia鈥檚 ex-president Moncef Marzouki sentenced to 8 years in absentia

FILE - Former Tunisian President and head of el-Harak party Moncef Marzouki speaks to 老澳门六合彩 in Tunis, on Aug.28, 2019. A court in Tunisia this week handed down former President Moncef Marzouki an eight-year prison sentence in abstentia in the latest reflection of the country's ongoing crackdown against opponents of President Kais Saied. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi, File)

FILE - Former Tunisian President and head of el-Harak party Moncef Marzouki speaks to 老澳门六合彩 in Tunis, on Aug.28, 2019. A court in Tunisia this week handed down former President Moncef Marzouki an eight-year prison sentence in abstentia in the latest reflection of the country鈥檚 ongoing crackdown against opponents of President Kais Saied. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi, File)

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) 鈥 A court in Tunisia sentenced former president Moncef Marzouki to eight years in prison in absentia as part of the country鈥檚 crackdown on opponents of President Kais Saied.

The charges against Marzouki, who lives in Paris, stemmed from remarks he made that authorities said violated laws against incitement and calling for the overthrow of the government, court spokesperson Mohamed Zitouna told Tunisia鈥檚 state news agency TAP on Friday evening.

His attorney, Samir Ben Amor, told 老澳门六合彩 that the sentence illustrates 鈥渢he hardening of the political line taken by the government against opponents.鈥

Marzouki served as the first democratically elected president of Tunisia from 2011 to 2014, after Arab Spring protests led autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down and flee the country. A longtime human rights activist, Marzouki has emerged as a vocal critic of President Kais Saied鈥檚 moves to consolidate his own power and revise Tunisia鈥檚 post-Arab Spring constitution.

Marzouki鈥檚 statements, which the court did not specify, amounted to fomenting 鈥渁n attack designed to overthrow the government, inciting people to take up arms against each other and provoking disorder, murder and pillaging on Tunisian soil.鈥

He has routinely called on foreign powers to withdraw support to Tunisia amid the ongoing reversal of the country鈥檚 democratic gains and called Saied a dictator who needs to be overthrown.

It鈥檚 the second time that Marzouki has been sentenced for remarks made at demonstrations and on social media, following a December 2021 four-year verdict for undermining state security.

Marzouki is among more than 20 political opponents who have been charged or imprisoned since Saied consolidated power in 2021 by suspending parliament and rewriting the country鈥檚 constitution. The president鈥檚 opponents, including Marzouki, have likened the moves to a coup 鈥 a charge that Saied has denied. Voters approved his constitutional changes in a low turnout 2021 referendum.

鈥淚s it normal in a democratic country for someone to be prosecuted simply for having expressed an opinion and point of view on his country鈥檚 politics?鈥 Ben Amor asked in regard to Marzouki鈥檚 sentence.

Saied has previously called those who make remarks like Marzouki鈥檚 鈥渢raitors to the nation鈥 and called on authorities to investigate them. Others targeted in his crackdown include Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, businessman and former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui and Free Destourian Party leader Abir Moussi, a potential challenger in the country鈥檚 2024 presidential elections.

鈥淎ll the achievements of the revolution have suffered setbacks due to (Saied鈥檚) seizure of power,鈥 Ennahda spokesperson Imed Khemiri said in a statement. 鈥淔undamental liberties have deteriorated, restrictions have been imposed on political party activities, opponents have been prosecuted and the independence of the judiciary has been called into question.鈥