Tunisian bar association slams ‘abuse of power’ over arrests

Tunisian bar association slams 'abuse of power' over arrests
Tunisian bar association slams 'abuse of power' over arrests

Police arrested two lawyers in recent days. Critics of President Kais Saied have accused him of cracking down on lawyers, activists, politicians and journalists following a power grab in 2021.

The head of Tunisia’s bar association decried an “abuse of power” on Tuesday after police raided the association’s headquarters and arrested two lawyers.

Tunisian police stormed the headquarters of the bar association on Saturday and arrested Sonia Dahmani, a lawyer who had been critical of strongman President Kais Saied.

Officers again entered the building on Monday and arrested another lawyer, Mehdi Zagrouba, who had taken part in a protest against Dahmani’s arrest.

Hatem Meziou, head of the bar association, called the arrests heavy handed and said they showed “disrespect to the profession.”

Everyone has “the right to defense without power abuse or resorting to violence,” he told a press conference in Tunis.

Tunisian lawyer Hatem Meziou said the arrests were an abuse of power

EU following ‘with concern’

The arrests were condemned by some opposition parties and civil society groups, as well as overseas governments.

A spokesperson for the European Union said the bloc was following “with concern recent developments in Tunisia, in particular the concomitant arrests of several civil society figures, journalists and political actors.”

“Freedoms of expression and association, as well as the independence of the judiciary, are guaranteed by the Tunisian constitution and constitute the basis of our partnership,” the EU said in statement.

Meanwhile, the US State Department also said that “this kind of action is inconsistent with what we think are universal rights that are explicitly guaranteed in the Tunisian constitution.”

Rights groups in Tunisia have pointed to a sweeping crackdown on freedoms since Saied began ruling by decree in 2021.

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