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Tunisia: opposition leader says no surrender until ‘coup’ is toppled

March 6, 2023 at 11:13 am

Tunisian politician Ahmed Najib Chebbi on April 26, 2022 [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

The head of the National Salvation Front in Tunisia, Ahmed Najib Chebbi, said yesterday that the country must be returned to the democratic path based on the 2014 constitution, with free and transparent elections. Chebbi made his comment during a protest march organised by the Front.

Referring to the recent arrests of President Kais Saied’s political opponents, he told protesters that, “The detainees are not conspirators, but they are opponents of Kais Saied… You know them one by one, as everyone knows them one by one.”

Chebbi pointed out that all of Tunisia’s partners such as France, the US and the European Union have denounced the politicised arrests. “These arrests are part of an arbitrary policy that targets not only the leaders of the NSFT but also the leaders of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT).”

The regime, he explained, has initiated a battle with the UGTT. “We are determined not to rest until the toppling of the coup and Tunisia once again enjoys freedoms and rights.”

The protesters ignored the fact that the authorities had not given permission for the protest to go ahead, and demanded the release of all of the detainees. An official from the ministry of the interior reminding the protesters of the need to abide by the decision by the Governor of Tunis who refused to grant permission for the march,

Governor Kamal El-Feki rejected the request from the “so-called” National Salvation Front last Thursday regarding its intention to organise the protest march in the capital. “The decision was made because some of the Front leaders are suspected of conspiracy against state security,” said the governorate administration.

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Chebbi told the marchers that the Association of Tunisian Magistrates has confirmed that judges are receiving threats [from the authorities].” According to the association’s Executive Office, “The judiciary is experiencing great and unprecedented pressures” following the arrests and prosecutions that Tunisia has witnessed, including the detention of political activists, judges, lawyers, trade unionists, journalists and media personnel.

“We call on the President of the Republic and the executive authority to respect the independence of the judiciary, and respect its constitutional and legal competencies and powers,” said the AMT. “And to stop interfering in the work of judges and the cases they are considering and refrain from all threatening and intimidating speeches directed against the judges.”

Such practices, the magistrates’ organisation said, put political pressure on the judges. “This is entirely inconsistent with the nature of their work, which basically depends on the proper application of the law and procedures, the protection of rights and freedoms, and the principles and guarantees of a fair trial under complete impartiality, not according to the instructions and desires of the executive authority.”