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Tunisian judges threaten to extend strike if president does not revoke decree

Tunisian judges shout slogans against the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council by the Tunisian president, during a protest in Tunis on February 10, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Tunisian judges have threatened to extend their strike into a second week if President Kais Saied does not revoke a decree sacking dozens of their colleagues, the judges association said on Thursday.

The warning came after the leader of Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), Noureddine Taboubi, revealed on Thursday that the union was being “targeted” by authorities after it refused to participate in talks on a new constitution called by the president last month.

Sources close to the powerful union confirmed that Saied might use the judiciary to target the union after he dismissed 57 judges last week, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists in a purge of the judiciary.

In a televised address, the president said he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself.”

The sackings prompted judges’ unions to announce a nationwide court strike, strongly condemning the president’s “continued interference in the judiciary.”

They accused the president of ignoring the constitution and removing judges without “recourse to disciplinary procedure.”

Saied, in response, ordered judges’ salaries to be cut by taking account of strike days after they began the stoppage in protest.

The judges association called the president’s controversial decision a “massacre”, and rejected allegations against the judges as politically motivated.

The UGTT union, a key player in Tunisia with about 1 million members which was founded in 1946, has also called for a national strike on June 16 in protest at the government's economic policy.

According to judicial and union sources, an appeals court will issue a decision in the coming period on a case brought by union members to challenge the legitimacy of a union congress that re-elected its current leadership.

The president of the Association of Judges Anas Hamaidi said on Thursday that the justice minister had asked the judge responsible for the union case to assign a specific department and a specific date for the case in a sign of interference.

According to Hamaidi, the judge was dismissed after she refused to comply.

Saied assumed executive powers last summer in a move his opponents slammed as a “coup,” while rights groups have warned that the country could be sliding back into autocracy.

Tunisia has been gripped by a political crisis since the president dismissed former prime minister Hichem Mechichi, and suspended parliament for 30 days in July 2021.

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