Tunisian judges will strike for a week and hold a sit-in to protest a purge of their ranks, as tensions rise over the president’s efforts to consolidate one-man rule.
In a recent crackdown on the judiciary, President Kais Saied dismissed 57 judges, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists in the latest step to tighten his grip on power in the North African country.
Judge Hammadi Rahmani stated that a meeting of judges on Saturday unanimously voted to suspend work in all courts and begin the sit-in protest.
The strike will begin Monday in all judicial institutions and may be extended, according to Anas Hamaidi, president of the Association of Judges.
Saied seized executive power last summer in what his opponents called a coup, before abandoning the 2014 constitution to rule by decree and dismissing the elected parliament.
Youssef Bouzaker, the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, who Saied replaced this year, was among the judges fired this week.
Since Tunisia’s 2011 democratic revolution, the council has served as the primary guarantor of judicial independence.
Some of the dismissed judges said in a session attended by hundreds of judges that the purge occurred after they rejected interventions from the justice minister and, in some cases, people close to the president.
“This injustice will not pass in silence. These free voices will never be silenced,” Hamaidi said. “The attack was not only against judges, but on the law and freedoms.”
In a statement, Rahed Ghannouhci, the speaker of the dissolved parliament, urged “national forces, parties, and civil society to stand by the judges in resisting the brutal dictatorship and preserving an independent judiciary.”
The international community was outraged by Saied’s purge of the judiciary. He was accused by Washington of undermining Tunisia’s democratic institutions. Meanwhile, the US last week condemned the sacking of the judges.
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