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Tunisia: Lawyers form a civil body to defend the independence of the judiciary

Hundreds take part in a protest against dissolving the Supreme Judiciary Council by President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, February 13, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]
Hundreds take part in a protest against dissolving the Supreme Judiciary Council by President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, February 13, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian lawyers announced yesterday the establishment of the "Defence Body for the Judiciary and Its Independence" to defend the rule of law and democracy.

"A body to defend the independence of the judiciary was established in Tunisia with the purpose of defending the rule of law and the foundations, principles and components of democracy," said Kamal Ben Massoud, professor of constitutional law and member of the defence team of the dismissed judges, during a press conference in Tunis.

"It is a defence body, not a political one, which includes all lawyers who volunteered to defend the case of judges who have been included in the illegal dismissal order and to defend other judges who are subjected to pressure and prosecution," Ben Massoud added.

Ben Massoud said the body "includes more than 40 lawyers and former heads of the Tunisian National Bar Association including Fadhel Mahfoudh, Chawki Tabib, Amer Al-Mahrezi and Albashir Tabib."

"A defence body was formed to defend the judiciary and its independence and to reveal the truth, documenting the cases and informing the public about the independence of the judiciary," said lawyer Ayachi Hammami during the conference.

He continued: "An atmosphere of fear and terror is spreading among judges who practice their profession today, and the state, without the independence of the judiciary, cannot serve its people."

Last June, President Kais Saied issued a presidential order stipulating the dismissal of 57 judges after charges including "changing the course of judicial cases", "disrupting investigations" related to terrorism cases and committing "financial and moral corruption". The judges denied the charges.

On 10 August the Administrative Court in Tunisia issued a final judgement to stop the implementation of President Kais Saied's order of dismissing several judges.

The Tunisian authorities have not commented on the formation of the new body of lawyers.

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