Tunisian leader seeks to dissolve the nation’s highest judiciary

Tunisia’s president has announced a plan to dissolve the national judicial body over suspicions of corruption and mishandling of sensitive political cases, local media reported on Sunday.

President Kais Saied’s decision to dissolve the High Council of the Judiciary comes as Tunisians marked the ninth anniversary of the assassination of a prominent leftist leader and outspoken critic of the Islamist movement on Sunday.

During a surprise visit to the Tunisian Interior Ministry on Saturday night, Said criticized members of the judiciary, accusing some judges and magistrates of “corruption… nepotism… and stalling proceedings in several cases, including murder cases.” politicians”.

“The Superior Council of the Judiciary can now be considered a thing of the past,” the president said, adding that a decree to create a provisional council will be issued soon.

Opposition leader Chokri Belaïd was shot dead outside his home on February 6, 2013. He was a vocal critic of the Islamist Ennahda movement, which was in power at the time. Six months later, another leftist politician, Mohammed Brahimi, was assassinated. No one has been convicted in either case.

Tunisia plunged into a deep political crisis after the two assassinations in 2013. The 2011 Tunisian revolution triggered the pro-democracy uprising known as the Arab Spring and was considered the country most likely to achieve true democratic change until the crisis after the murders.

Last July, following anti-government protests across the country, Saied sacked his prime minister, assumed all executive powers and froze parliament in the North African nation. He has been ruling by decree ever since, cracking down on corruption and jailing several lawmakers and businessmen on corruption charges.

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While constitutional lawyers and political opponents, including the influential Islamist party, say the president’s actions are illegal, the decision has proven wildly popular with the Tunisian public.

Supporters of the slain politicians have blamed the Islamist party for the killings and said that Ennahda has continually slowed down the prosecution of the cases. Ennahda leaders have denied involvement.

Saied accused the magistrates of mishandling Belaid’s case and accused them of “denying Tunisians the right to know the truth.” He called on Tunisians to peacefully protest against the judges who have kept “the murder file in the drawer for years.”

The president’s call to protest was issued despite a government ban on public gatherings due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Several hundred people marched in the capital Tunis on Sunday, demanding “truth and justice for Belaid.” They carried out a sit-in in the building of the Superior Council of the Judiciary and demanded the dissolution of the body.

Council president Youssef Bouzakher said the body remains intact because the president has no power to dissolve it under the Tunisian constitution.

“We continue to do our duty and will defend the judicial council with all the means at our disposal,” Bouzakher said in a statement Sunday to Radio Mosaïque.

Ghazi Chaouachi, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said the president’s attempt to dissolve the judicial council is part of his “power grab.”

“By getting his hands on the judiciary, after he captured the executive and legislative branches, his control is almost total,” Ghaouachi said.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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