Thousands of Tunisian lawyers on strike


TUNIS — Thousands of lawyers in Tunisia went on strike Thursday, a week after a police crackdown on demonstrations they staged in support of protestors against unemployment in the tightly-controlled country.

The strike came amid growing unrest following the death of a jobless 26-year old university graduate who had set himself alight last month in the central town of Sidi Bouzid to protest his lack of opportunities.

“Ninety-five percent of lawyers across the board went on strike” called for by the national council of their order, Bar president Abderrazak Kilani told AFP.

The great majority of Tunisia’s 8,000 lawyers were on strike, he said, adding: “No incidents were recorded in the regions, nor in Tunis. The lawyers show that they can respond wisely and responsibly.”

In Tunis, lawyers in robes gathered at the main courthouse on Bab Bnet Avenue, where a strong force of police stood guard but did not intervene.

The national council had called the strike after lawyers across the country staged actions in support of residents of Sidi Bouzid, a centre of mass protests against unemployment since December 19.

The council on New Year’s Eve condemned the “unprecedented” use of force to “silence the lawyers who are determined to defend freedom of expression and the rights of Sidi Bouzid and other regions that are devoid of jobs and dignity.”

Lawyers were “beaten, chased and insulted” in Tunis, Grombalia, Sousse, Monastir, Mahdia, Gafsa et Jendouba. One lawyer had his nose broken and another had his eye seriously injured, the council said.

Members of the the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) led by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali opposed the strike.

“This has nothing to do with the Bar’s defence. It is a means to gain political ends” in the context of social unrest, said pro-government lawyer Mohsen Harbi.

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