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Tunisia’s president dissolves council overseeing judges

Tunisian President Kais Saied

Tunisian President Kais Saied has dissolved a top judicial council overseeing the independent performance of the country's judges.

Saied, who took power with the promise of reforms, said on Sunday that the Supreme Judicial Council was a “thing of the past.”

He accused members of the council of taking “billions” in bribes.

He also accused council members of delaying politically sensitive investigations, including a probe into the assassinations of left-wing activists in 2013.

“In this council, positions and appointments are sold according to loyalties. Their place is not the place where they sit now, but where the accused stand,” Saied said.

The president appeared to call on his supporters to stage a second protest against the Supreme Judicial Council.

“I tell Tunisians to demonstrate freely. It is your right and our right to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council,” Saied said.

The Supreme Judicial Council’s dissolution coincides with the ninth anniversary of the assassination of Chokri Belaid, who was an opposition leader with the left-secular Democratic Patriots' Movement.

Since seizing power, Saied has dissolved the parliament and sacked the government, dismissing several ministers and top officials as part of reforms.

The call for demonstrations comes despite a government ban on all rallies following growing opposition to what his critics see as power-grabbing moves.

Last month, police fired water cannons and beat protesters with sticks to break up an opposition protest.

The former university professor expert on constitutional law, Saied rose to power in October 2019, pledging to combat corruption. However, opponents have expressed fear of a slide back to the authoritarianism seen under long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. 

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