Moncef Marzouki Image Credit: Agency

Tunis: A Tunisian court sentenced in absentia exiled former president Moncef Marzouki, a fierce critic of the power grab by current leader Kais Saied, to four years in prison, a judicial source said Wednesday.

The source was not able to clarify on what charge Marzouki, 76, was convicted by the court of first instance in the capital Tunis.

His lawyer, Lamia Khemiri, told AFP that Marzouki had not received any summons to court and she also did not know why he was convicted.

Local media said he was found guilty of "undermining the security of the state from abroad" and of having caused "diplomatic harm".

Saied has said Marzouki is among the "enemies of Tunisia", and asked the courts to investigate statements he had made, as well as to withdraw his diplomatic passport.

A Tunisian judge last month issued an arrest warrant for the former president.

During an early October demonstration in Paris, Marzouki, in a reference to Saied, called on the French government to "reject all support for this regime and this man who plotted against the revolution and abolished the constitution".

On July 25 Tunisia's Saied sacked the government and began to seize sweeping powers after months of political and economic crisis.

Since then, Marzouki has used regular television appearances and social media to launch withering broadsides against Saied, whom he has called a "dictator".

Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts a decade ago and became the only democracy to emerge from that movement.

A human rights activist who was imprisoned then exiled under Tunisia's former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Marzouki returned home and was elected president for three years following the 2011 revolution.

He shared power with the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, a move which drew criticism.

Ennahdha was also the largest party in the parliament suspended by Saied.

The president last week extended the months-long suspension until new elections in December 2022, while calling for a July referendum on constitutional reforms.