Tunisian Judges On Strike
The Tunisian Union of Judges has called a strike in protest of the firing of 81 judges. Minister of Justice Noureddine Bhiri announced that the judges were fired under accusations of corruption and ties to the former regime, defending the move as a part of its ongoing attempt to curb corruption in the court system. Union member Soufein Ourabi explained that Bhiri justified the firing under Article 67 of the judicial law, employed by the former Ben Ali government to force the Tunisian judiciary into submission. The head of the union, Raoudha Abidi, explained that “Our strike is against the method of the ministry’s decision. We are not defending these people. We want to fight corruption, but the judges need the right to challenge their dismissals and enjoy a fair trial.”
However, Mondher Bidhyef, the press attaché for the ministry, explained that the 81 judges were under investigation for over eight months. Bidhyef asserted, “We started an investigation since we took charge of the ministry. Fighting corruption and having an independent judiciary is our priority.” The ministry said it will not reverse the decision. Fadel Sayhi, the Justice Ministry chief of staff stressed that ”The decision (to sack the 81 judges) is among the tasks of the ministry. We will not retreat … because cleaning up the justice system is one of the demands of the revolution.”
Meanwhile, the coalition government, led by the Islamist Ennahda movement, has come under intense criticism for the state of the economy. Its strongest opponents stem from a trade union and secular party alliance. Secretary-General of the Republican Party Maya Jribi, a leading opponent of Ennahda, called for the resignation of the coalition and the formation of a new government. Additionally, teachers and health workers have announced a strike calling for higher wages and general strikes are expected for the same reason in the impoverished interior.