Tunisia’s president sacked 57 judges on Wednesday, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists in a purge of the judiciary that comes as he seeks to remake the political system after consolidating one-man rule.
In a televised address President Kais Saied said he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself.” Hours later the official gazette published a decree announcing the dismissals.
Among those sacked was Youssef Bouzaker, the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council whose members Saied replaced this year as he moved to take control of the judiciary.
The council had acted as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that introduced democracy and Saied’s changes prompted accusations he was interfering in the judicial process.
Another prominent judge on the list of those sacked was Bachir Akremi, whom some political activists accuse of being too close to the Islamist Ennahda party and of stopping cases against it. Ennahda and Akremi both deny that.
Last summer Saied dismissed the government and 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.
He says his moves were needed to save Tunisia from crisis and his intervention initially appeared to have widespread public support after years of economic stagnation, political paralysis and corruption.
Saied, who has also replaced the independent electoral commission, has also said he will introduce a new constitution this month that he will put to a referendum next month.
However, nearly all Tunisia’s political parties have rejected the move along with the powerful UGTT labour union.
With Tunisia’s economy failing, and with public finances in crisis, Saied meanwhile faces the prospect of growing popular anger over high inflation and unemployment, and declining public services.
The UGTT said this week that public sector workers would go on strike on June 16, posing the biggest direct challenge to Saied’s political stance so far.
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