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Tunisia: security officers demand release of eight policemen

Security forces take measures outside the courthouse in capital Tunis, Tunisia on July 19, 2022[Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]
Security forces take measures outside the courthouse in capital Tunis, Tunisia on July 19, 2022[Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]

Security and police officers organised a demonstration in Tunisia on Wednesday during which they demanded trade union freedoms and the release of eight of their colleagues who were arrested during an earlier protest, Agence France-Presse has reported.

More than two hundred security and police personnel in civilian clothes gathered in the centre of Sfax at the invitation of the National Union of Internal Security Forces. They insisted that trade union work is not a crime, and they called for respect for the constitution of the republic.

"The eight policemen were arrested on Friday after a decision of the military court while they were participating in a protest in Sfax for professional and social rights," explained Chokri Hamadeh, the official spokesman of the union.

The union installed 32 tents in various parts of the country for protests. It refused to comply with the request of senior police officers to clear the locations and end all protests. As a result, clashes erupted between union security personnel and the police on duty, which resulted in the arrest of the eight who were charged with "disturbing public security".

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"The Interior Ministry does not want to work according to law," said one participant in Wednesday's demonstration. "It works according to instructions."

The security and police forces gained the right to establish their own trade unions after the 2011 revolution that toppled the regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. President Kais Saied has called for the unification of the security unions, which the National Union of Internal Security Forces rejects and calls "repression" of union work.

Police officers in Tunisia are often criticised for using excessive force. The Tunisian Human Rights League said that fourteen young people have been killed during the past few years in confrontations with the police, and it criticised officers' impunity.

Ever since Saied took control of the executive and legislative powers in the country in July last year, NGOs have accused the security forces of adopting methods similar to the police state of the Ben Ali regime.

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