Tunisian Court Sentences Four to Death, Two Others Jailed for Chokri Belaid’s Assassination

A Tunisian court has rendered a verdict in the long-awaited case concerning the assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, a pivotal event in Tunisia’s recent history. Eleven years after his death, four individuals have been sentenced to death, while two others have received life imprisonment for their roles in the 2013 killing. The assassination, claimed by jihadis loyal to the “Islamic State” militant group, dealt a severe blow to Tunisia’s fledgling democracy, following the 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Belaid, a vocal critic of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, was fatally shot outside his home in Tunis, sparking widespread outrage and mass protests. His assassination marked the first political killing in Tunisia in decades and contributed to the resignation of the then-prime minister. Mohamed Brahmi, another leftist politician, was similarly assassinated months later, intensifying the country’s political crisis.

The court’s verdict comes after a protracted trial involving two dozen defendants charged in connection with the assassinations. Among those sentenced were individuals associated with Ansar al-Sharia, a Salafist group with alleged ties to al-Qaeda. While Belaid’s family and supporters accused Ennahda of complicity in the assassination, the party vehemently denied any involvement.

President Kaïs Saïed, whose rule has been marked by controversy and accusations of authoritarianism, has also faced scrutiny for purportedly obstructing investigations into the killings. Despite calls for reconciliation, political tensions persist in Tunisia, exacerbated by ongoing challenges and power struggles.

However, it is anticipated that further trials will be conducted, particularly concerning individuals suspected of orchestrating the assassinations. Ennahda has welcomed the verdict, asserting its innocence and calling for an end to political discord. A total of 23 people had been charged in connection with the murder.

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