Families request that incarcerated Tunisian opposition leaders be released from the human rights court

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The families of two leading Tunisian opposition figures jailed on terrorism charges have asked Europe’s top human rights court to order their release after nearly two years in detention.

Lawyers for the Center for Human Rights and the International Institute for Justice & Democracy said a request has been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the families of former Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and Ghannouchi Al-Jabali.

Both men have been held without charges for more than 18 months and lawyers say they have been denied their basic human rights, including the right to a fair trial.

The families accuse Tunisian prosecutors of trumping up charges against the two men in an effort to muzzle opponents of President Beji Caid Essebsi and halt their political activism.

They say the imprisonment of Chahed and Al-Jabali is part of a “systematic attempt” by the government to suppress dissent and stifle opposition to its policies.

The court is yet to decide whether to accept the families’ case. If accepted, the case could have implications for Tunisia’s democratization process.

Chahed and Al-Jabali’s continued detention despite widespread domestic and international pressure for their release underscores the government’s ongoing restrictions on political and speech freedoms in the country. It also highlights the judicial system’s lack of independence from the Executive branch, a problem that has been highlighted by human rights groups for years.