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Tunisian president dissolves Supreme Judicial Council

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TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied has dissolved a major independent judicial watchdog. The President said in a video that he is accusing the body, it is responsible for appointing judges of corruption and delaying politically sensitive investigations, including into the assassinations of left-wing activists in 2013.

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Sunday dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council, the body that deals with judicial independence, a move that raises fears about the independence of the judiciary and was sure to anger his opponents.

Saied’s decision caps months of his sharp criticism of the judges. Saied has frequently criticized the judiciary’s delay in issuing rulings in cases of corruption and terrorism. He said he would not allow judges to act as if they are a state, instead of being a function of the state.

Last July, Saied dismissed the government and suspended parliament, a move his opponents described as a coup. He has been broadly criticized after seizing power and rejecting dialogue with all political parties.

The Supreme Judicial Council is an independent and constitutional institution, formed in 2016. Its powers include ensuring the independence of the judiciary, disciplining judges, and granting them professional promotions.

Last month, Saied revoked all financial privileges for council members.

“In this council, positions and appointments are sold according to loyalties. Their place is not the place where they sit now, but where the accused stand,” Saied said in a speech in the interior ministry.

“I tell Tunisians to demonstrate freely. It is your right and our right to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council,” Saied said.

Last month, police fired water cannons and beat protesters with sticks to break up an opposition protest against Saied, whose seizure of broad powers and declared plans to redraw the constitution have cast doubt on Tunisia’s decade-old democratic system and hindered its quest for an international rescue plan for public finances.

The president has initiated an online public consultation before drafting a new constitution that he says will be put to a referendum. He has not brought major political or civil society players into the process.

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