Hundreds of people participated in a protest in front of the Tunis Court of First Instance on Tuesday, January 10, against the continued persecution and harassment of Ayachi Hammami, coordinator of the Committee for the Defense of Dismissed Judges. The government under President Kais Saied had dismissed 57 judges through a decree in June last year.
The protesters denounced the state intimidation and harassment of political dissidents under Saied’s rule, and demanded the restoration of the 57 judges who were dismissed.
Hammami was summoned to the court after he was accused last week of “spreading rumors with the aim of undermining the rights of others and harming public security” and “spreading misinformation,” according to TAP.
TAP reported that a case was filed against Hammami after his appearance in a radio show where he claimed that the judges dismissed last year were “wronged” by the government. He also alleged that the Ministry of Justice had “committed an offense” by not following court decisions.
President Saied had dismissed the 57 judges after alleging that they were indulging in corruption and sheltering people involved in terrorist activities. Saied claimed that the dismissal of the judges was part of his larger project of “political reform” to rid the country of corruption and inefficiency. Days before he sacked the judges, he had appointed himself as the head of a new watchdog with powers of appointing and dismissing judges without any opposition.
Speaking in the court, Hammami claimed that the case against him was “politically motivated” and revealed the state of freedom of expression and right to dissent in the country. He also accused President Saied of trying to take control over the Tunisian judiciary and reduce its powers, TAP reported.
President Saied had dismissed the elected government in the country in July 2021 and ruled for months before also dissolving the parliament. He adopted a new constitution in July 2022 despite an extremely low voter turnout in the referendum on the issue amid calls for boycott. He also issued a new electoral law under which the first round of parliamentary elections were conducted last month. The elections saw a historically low voter participation of nearly 10% amid widespread calls for boycott.
Opposition groups in Tunisia have called Saied’s moves illegitimate and demanded his resignation, terming his power grab a ‘presidential coup’.