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Tunisian Army Critic Gets a One-Year Suspended Jail Sentence

Yesterday [January, 4], a Tunis based military court increased the suspended jail of Ayoub Massoudi, a former advisor to Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, from four months to a year. Last September, a primary military court convicted Massoudi to a four-month suspended prison sentence on charges of “defaming” the army and “undermining senior officials in the military”, over his televised declarations [en] regarding the extradition of former Muammar Gaddafi's Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi to Libya. However, on appeal Massoudi's fourth-month jail sentence tripled it.

Ayoub Massoudi, photo via Nawaat

Last July, Massoudi described the extradition of Baghdadi Mahmoudi as “a treason against the State” and accused Rachid Ammar [Chief of Staff of the Tunisian Armed Forces] and Abdelkrim Zbidi [Minister of Defence] of not notifying President Marzouki about the extradition process which took place on June 14. Fearing that he would not get a fair trial in Libya, Marzouki had opposed the extradition of Mahmoudi.

Rached Cherif reports [fr]:

Dans cette affaire, où l’armée est donc juge et partie, le verdict est tombé comme un couperet dans la journée du 4 janvier. Incapable de se désavouer, la justice militaire a alourdi la peine pour la porter à 1 an de prison avec sursis, assortie comme en première instance d’une interdiction de port d’arme et d’une privation de toute distinction honorifique et d’embauche dans la fonction publique.

In this case, where the army is both a judge and a party, the verdict came out of the blue on January 4. Unable to pull back, the military justice increased the sentence to a one-year suspended jail term. As in the first instance, the term was accompanied by a ban to bear arms and a deprivation from any honorary distinction and recruitment for the public service

Massoudi's lawyer told [ar] the award-winning blog Nawaat that the travel ban imposed on Massoudi in August, 2012, has not been lifted yet:

أشار الأستاذ القلّيل أنّ إجراء تحجير السفر إدانة مُسبقة لأيوب المسعودي من طرف القضاء العسكري، و أكّد أنّ تواصل المنع من السفر رغم صدور حكم إبتدائي جُناحي يقضي برفع تحجير السفر

Mr Kelli (lawyer of Ayoub Massoudi) said that the travel ban is a prior conviction to Ayoub Massoudi by the military justice. He added that the ban is still in effect despite a primary verdict ordering its lift

As a result, Massoudi is still unable to join his wife and children, who live in France. On January 1, he published on his personal blog a letter, which he dedicated to his two children:

أدري وأنا أكتب هذه الأسطر متى سنلتقي من جديد لأضمكم إلى صدري وأنفض عن قلوبكم غبار أيام الغياب والوحشة؟ لا أدري متى، ولكن… مصير الأحباء أن يلتقوا، طال الزمن أو قصرلا!

As I write these words, I have no idea when we will meet again, to hug you and brush away [the pain caused] by the days of separation and absence from your hearts. I do not know when… but no matter how much time it takes, loved ones are always destined to meet again

On Twitter, Malek Khadhraoui criticized [fr] the military justice:

Le jugement dans l'affaire de Ayoub Massoudi est scandaleux et confirme que la justice militaire est une mascarade #freeayoub

The verdict in Ayoub Massoudi's case is disgraceful and confirms that the military justice is a masquerade #freeAyoub

@HamdySdiri raises the following question [ar]:

الكلام في الجيش ما يجيش؟ #FreeAyoub

Is army criticism unacceptable?

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