TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied's former chief of staff was sentenced in absentia on Tuesday to prison over audio recordings critical of him, local media reported.
Nadia Akacha had been a key aide to Saied until she quit in January last year, citing "fundamental differences of opinion" over the national interest.
Some three months later, 11 audio recordings appeared online featuring a woman, purportedly Akacha, relating details from private meetings since the president's July 2021 power grab.
In some, the woman criticised the president and staff members or shared gossip about his in-laws.
Akacha has denied being the woman in the recordings, describing them as fakes aiming to undermine her former boss.
On Tuesday, a Tunis court sentenced Akacha in absentia to 14 months in jail, local media reported, adding that the sentence was in relation to a suit filed by the president's sister-in-law.
Prosecutors had opened an investigation in May to determine the recordings' authenticity.
Akacha left the country after her resignation. Tunisian media have reported she has since been living in France.
A constitutional lawyer like the president, she was appointed as Saied's legal adviser in late 2019 before becoming his chief of staff in January 2020, travelling widely with him domestically and abroad.
Her departure was a blow to Saied six months after he suspended parliament and sacked the government in a shock move against the political system that had emerged from the country's 2011 revolt.
Many Tunisians initially welcomed his moves but others have accused him of seeking to reinstall an autocracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Last week, thousands of opposition supporters had rallied in the Tunisian capital, accusing President Kais Saied of a power grab as they marked the anniversary of an uprising that toppled long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 12 years ago.
Saturday's protests in central Tunis come amid months of political turmoil and economic hardship in Tunisia, the birthplace of the 2010-11 Arab Spring revolts. Supporters of the National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition,converged on the iconic Habib Bourguiba Avenue, calling for Saied's departure, witnesses said.
Some of them chanted, "the people want the regime's fall," a slogan reminiscent of a 2010 uprising that ended Ben Ali's rule. Leader of the opposition Workers' Party Hamma Hammami also lashed out at Saied. -- AFP