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Tunisia judge: The West has honoured me while my country is prosecuting me

An interview with Tunisian Judge Bashir Al-Akrami who has faced charges of covering terrorism related files, in moves he says have been politicised.
Tunisian Judge Bashir Al-Akrami [Arabi21]
Tunisian Judge Bashir Al-Akrami [Arabi21]

Tunisian Judge Bashir Al-Akrami says he is saddened by the state of the judiciary in Tunisia and its use as a political tool but is confident in its professionalism and its ability to end the injustice that he has been subjected to.

"I have worked in the judiciary for 33 years," he says, "most of which were spent following major criminal cases, with a high and undeniable level of professionalism. I have received recognition from local and international judicial authorities for my professionalism and my commitment to the laws in order to reach the truth. No darker time has passed over the judiciary since the outbreak of the revolution that what we are witnessing today."Al-Akrimi faced trouble when he wrote a report on corruption within the Court of Appeals and demanded solutions be outlined.

"I was never a politician. Even during my student life, I was not tempted by political currents, and political parties did not tempt me, neither before nor after the revolution. I was committed to the standards of professional judiciary that I absorbed from my university days all the way to my professional life."

"If I really wanted to work in politics, I could have withdrawn from the judiciary to devote myself to that, something that became possible and available after the revolution," he adds.

READ: Tunisia is back to square one and has to put civil freedoms first

Al-Akrami pointed out he has been accused of being close to the Ennahda party as part of efforts by political parties "to turn the Tunisian courts into arenas for political conflict. This is something that I rejected early on."

"It is really strange and surprising that almost all the cases that I follow that have been brought against me by the Patriotic Democratic Party, which is known for its left-leaning tendencies, are only raised because I refused to direct a political accusation against certain parties without evidence."

In 2015, following the terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum there were initiatives to bring together different aspects of the political scene and the security unions, members of the judiciary were involved in the endeavour. "On the other side there was a large number of judges who considered the objective was dragging the judiciary into the political struggle, and that it is an attack on the independence of the judiciary," he said.

Is Tunisia's president Kais Saied like Louis XIV, King of France? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Is Tunisia's president Kais Saied like Louis XIV, King of France? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Al-Akrimi stated that he faced great pressure. "I was threatened by the minister Mohammed Saleh Bin Eissa [an ally of current President Kais Saied]" because he would not accept accusations made against the two martyrs and activists, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, saying there was no proof to back up the claims.

As a result, on 13 July, the Judicial Council suspended Al-Akrimi from work, pending a ruling on the charges brought against him for "concealing terrorism-related files" and "obstructing the investigation". He died all the charges.

In January, the Appeals Judicial Chamber of the Administrative Court accepted the appeal Al-Akrami submitted against his arrest. "This decision exposes the falseness of the accusations and confirms the political nature of the prosecution."

Looking back at his career, Al-Akrami highlights his work with international bodies following the terror attacks in Sousse and Bardo in 2015. "I led the investigation in the two cases in cooperation with the British police [Scotland Yard] and the British judiciary, as well as with the European judiciary in The Hague, and my cooperation with them was professional and I obtained recognition from them for that. I was honoured in London and The Hague for the judicial effort I made in revealing the details of the two terrorist attacks in Sousse and Bardo. I am proud of these testimonies and consider them among the most beautiful achievements I have accomplished during my career."

"When I compare the international testaments that acknowledged my professionalism and justice and the injustice I have been facing for several months, I feel really sad, because there are attempts to politicise and degrade the judiciary and turn it into one of the tools of political conflict, However, the judiciary institution is the strong pillar to which everyone turns to in order uphold justice."

READ: What will 2022 bring to Tunisia in light of Kais Saied's power grab?

This interview first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 3 February 2022

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