Tunisia lawyer handed one-year sentence over critical comments on the country

Sonia Dahmani, a prominent Tunisian lawyer known for her criticism of President Kais Saied, has been sentenced to one year in prison, her legal representative said on Saturday. Dahmani’s sentence comes as rights organisations say that Tunisian authorities’ crackdown on critical voices is “methodically annihilating” what little remains of Tunisia’s hard-won freedoms.

A Tunisian lawyer and media figure was sentenced to one year in prison over comments critical of the country, her family said on Saturday.

Sonia Dahmani was arrested on May 11 after masked police raided the Tunisian national bar association, where she had sought refuge, and detained her following comments she had made on TV.

The comments in question were made during a programme on the Carthage Plus TV channel, while Dahmani was responding to another pundit’s claim that sub-Saharan migrants were seeking to settle in Tunisia.

“What extraordinary country are we talking about?” she had asked sarcastically.

A judicial report later said Dahmani’s comments were in response to a speech by President Kais Saied in which he said the country would not become a place for the resettlement of sub-Saharan migrants prevented from crossing to Europe.

On Saturday, Dahmani’s daughter Nour Bettaieb posted on Facebook that “a one-year prison sentence was issued against my mother… under Decree 54, because what she said represents a ‘rumour’ and false news”.

One of her lawyers also confirmed the sentence.

Dahmani’s arrest and sentencing came under Decree 54, signed into law by Saied in 2022, which outlaws “spreading false news”.

Tunisia lawyer handed one-year sentence over critical comments on the country