By Tarek Amara
TUNIS, June 4 (Reuters) – Tunisia’s judges will suspend work in courts for a week and hold a sit-in to protest against a purge of their ranks, amid growing tensions over the president’s attempts to consolidate one-man rule.
President Kais Saied this week dismissed 57 judges, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists in a crackdown on the judiciary – his latest step to tighten his grip on power in the North African country.
Judge Hammadi Rahmani said a meeting of judges on Saturday voted unanimously to suspend work in all courts, and to start the sit-in.
The strike will start on Monday in all judicial institutions and could be extended, Anas Hamaidi, president of the Association of Judges, said.
Last summer, Saied seized executive power in a move his foes called a coup, before setting aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree and dismissing the elected parliament.
Among the judges fired this week was Youssef Bouzaker, the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council whose members Saied replaced this year.
The council had acted as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.
In a session attended by hundreds of judges, some of the dismissed judges said the purge came after they rejected interventions from the justice minister and in some cases from people surrounding 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.”
Rahed Ghannouhci, the speaker of dissolved parliament called in statement for “national forces, parties, civil society, to stand by the judges in resisting the brutal dictatorship to preserve an independent judiciary”.
Saied’s purge of the judiciary sparked international outrage. Washington accused him of undermining Tunisia’s democratic institutions.
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