Tunisians protest against 'corrupt' judges

2012-06-01 20:17

Tunis - Several hundred people congregated on Friday in front of Tunisia's central court buildings to protest against what they say are corrupt judges and to call for an overhaul of the judiciary.

"You are the servants of Ben Ali!" some of them cried, referring to the ousted regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, toppled in January 2011 during Tunisia's Arab Spring uprising.

"Compromised by the old regime!" others yelled.

The crowd, mostly backers of the Islamist Ennahda party in power, described judges as thieves, corrupt and rotten.

"Mr justice minister, show us the list of corrupt judges," some people at the scene in Tunis also shouted.

Tensions between the Islamist-dominated government and the judiciary came to a head last Saturday when the justice ministry announced that 81 magistrates had been dismissed.

They were removed because they were suspected corruption and because they had been "compromised" by their ties with the fallen dictatorship, said the ministry.

That decision led to a magistrates' strike on Wednesday, which was only suspended after Justice Minister Nourredine Bhiri accepted the principle of a right of appeal for the sacked magistrates.

Under Ben Ali, the judiciary and the media served the interests of the ruling elite, particularly during political trials and those related to freedom of expression.

Nevertheless several Tunisian magistrates did protest the manipulation of the justice system.

In recent months, the capital has seen several demonstrations demanding the "cleaning up" or "purification" of certain public services and administrative sectors.

In March and in April, Ennahda supporters camped out for 50 days outside the headquarters of the national television station to press their demand that its programmes be "purified".