Reports indicate that Tunisian Authorities expelled the head of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on Saturday after she took part in an anti-government protest organised by the country’s UGTT union, one of Tunisia’s leading political forces.
The UGTT said the expulsion was “shocking” and opened up a confrontation with labour unions around the world.
Tunisian President Kais Saied declared the ETUC’s Esther Lynch “persona non grata” and said the Irish citizen must leave the country within 24 hours.
Lynch’s participation in the protests and remarks she made were a “blatant interference in Tunisian affairs”, the government said.
On Saturday, thousands of UGTT members demonstrated against Saied’s policies in eight Tunisian cities, accusing him of attempting to restrict fundamental freedoms like union rights.
Lynch made a request for the quick release of the arrested union officials while speaking to one of the demonstrations.
“We condemn this shocking decision … it not only contains a confrontation against UGTT, but rather with the international union movement”, Sami Tahri, the senior official in the UGTT, told newsmen.
Lynch, he continued, was being bullied and even kept from leaving her hotel to eat.
The union’s campaign against Saied intensified with the large-scale demonstrations on Saturday, which came after it criticised the recent detentions of various anti-government personalities, including lawmakers, a journalist, two judges, and a top UGTT officer.
The U.N. Human Rights Office has demanded their immediate release as a result of the arrests, which have sparked worries about a wider crackdown on dissent.
The government is attempting to limit freedom of expression in an effort to divert attention from the country’s economic problems, according to the UGTT, which has more than 1 million members and has brought the country to a near stop during strikes.
Saied, who shut down parliament in 2021, took over most of the government’s authority, and began to rule by decree while drafting a new constitution, claimed this week that the government does not target liberties but instead seeks to hold everyone accountable on an equal basis.
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