Tunisia’s president sacked 57 judges on Wednesday, accusing them of corruption and protecting “terrorists”, as he seeks to remodel the country’s political system after consolidating one-man rule.
In a televised address President Kais Saied said he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself”. Hours later, the official gazette published a decree announcing the dismissals.
Among those sacked was Youssef Bouzaker, the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, which Saied dissolved in February.
The council had acted as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution and the move fuelled accusations that Saied was interfering in the judicial process.
Another prominent casualty of the purge was Bachir Akremi. Some political activists say the judge is too close to the Ennahda party and accuse him of stopping cases against it. Ennahda and Akremi both deny the allegations.
Last July, Saied dismissed the government and seized executive power, before setting aside the 2014 constitution and dismissing the country’s elected parliament.
He has been ruling by decree ever since, claiming he needed to take action to save Tunisia from crisis. Initially, his moves appeared to win public support after years of economic stagnation, political paralysis and corruption, but public anger is growing amid high inflation and unemployment, and declining public services.
Saied, who has also taken control of the once independent electoral commission, has said he will introduce a new constitution this month that put it to a referendum in July.
However, nearly all of Tunisia’s political parties have rejected the move along with the powerful UGTT Labour union.
The UGTT said this week that public sector workers would go on strike on June 16, posing the biggest direct challenge to Saied’s power grab so far.