Tunisia places key judge under house arrest, Ennahda calls for dialogue

Right activists in Tunisia see Judge Bechir Akremi as symbolising corruption in the judiciary, claiming he is close to the Ennahda party.

Tunisian police stand guard outside the parliament in Tunis on July 27, 2021.
Tunisian police stand guard outside the parliament in Tunis on July 27, 2021. (AFP)

A Tunisian judge who has been accused by human rights groups of hiding terrorism-related files has been placed under house arrest for 40 days, local radio and a security source said.

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The move against Judge Bechir Akremi came after President Kais Saied pledged to lead a campaign against corruption in all sectors, following his dismissal this week of the prime minister and freezing of parliament.

Right activists in Tunisia see Akremi as symbolising corruption in the judiciary, saying he is close to the Ennahda party, the biggest party in parliament.

Assassination of Belaid and Brahmi

Lawyers and secular parties said files he allegedly hid include those related to the assassination of two secular leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi in 2013, which led to massive protests at the time that ended with the overthrow of the government.

Akremi has not commented on these accusations and was not immediately available to comment on Saturday.

Ennahda rejects accusations that it has ties to the judge or that it has interfered in judicial files.

Tunisia has been thrust into a political crisis by Saied’s action on Sunday as the president dismissed the government of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, froze the parliament, and assumed executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister.

Ennahda and other major parties have accused the president of a coup, which he denies.

Ennahda party calls for dialogue

Ennahda party on Saturday called on President Saied to engage in dialogue to avoid deepening the country’s political crisis.

“The possible and effective way-out of these problems will not be through monopolising power, which can only increase the spread of corruption, nepotism, and injustice,” Ennahda said in a statement.

Ennahda called on the Tunisian president to “give priority to the national interest, and return to the requirements of constitutional legitimacy, respect of the law and opening a dialogue the outcome of which all participants pledge to abide by. ”

It described Saied’s decisions as a “flagrant attack on principles of democracy and Tunisians’ civil and personal rights”, warning that the move drags “state institutions into conflicts and obstructing their duty of serving nation”.

“These measures that are presented as a response to Tunisians’ legitimate demands to resolve a stifling crisis are not a solution to accumulated complex problems but add new dangers to Tunisians’ plight by undermining stability and social and economic security,” it added.

The Tunisian president insists that his exceptional measures are meant to “save” the country while his critics accuse him of orchestrating a coup.

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