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Tunisia’s judges strike protesting firings

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – Tunisia’s judiciary went on open-ended strike Wednesday to protest the government’s removal of 82 judges for corruption and ties to the previous regime.

The judges called for the Justice Ministry to revoke its decision, describing the move as unjust and not giving those targeted a chance to defend themselves.

“The firing of the judges is contrary to the fundamentals of transitional justice which calls for revealing the truth about people and judging those who have violated (people’s) rights, while guaranteeing equitable decisions and above all the right to defense,” said Raoudha Laabidi, head of the Tunisian Judges’ Union in a statement.

Justice Ministry spokesman Mondher Bendhiafi said Sunday in an interview that the judges targeted were “beyond the shadow of a doubt” involved in passing judgments to enrich family members of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown last year.

Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for 23 years during which he and his relatives came to control large sectors of the economy, aided by a compliant legal system.

Tunisia’s teachers and health workers have also announced they are going on a two-day strike calling for higher wages, while in the impoverished interior there are general strikes expected in the coming days.

Since the uprising, which partly took place over high unemployment, the economy has only worsened and the country has been plagued by strikes for improved living conditions, especially in the interior.

Tourism, one of the country’s main earners of hard currency, also suffered and there was a negative economic growth in 2011.

According to the state news agency, the head of the General Union of Tunisian Workers, Houcine Abbasi said some strikes were actually canceled after negotiations with the government for salary increases and keep from exacerbating the fragile situation.

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