Tunisian Police Storm Lawyers’ Headquarters, Arrest Another Lawyer

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Tunisian police stormed the bar association’s headquarters for the second time in two days and arrested a lawyer, witnesses said on Monday.

The police had detained two journalists as well as another lawyer critical of the president over the weekend.

A live broadcast on the media website TUNMEDIA showed videos of broken glass doors and toppled chairs while the police arrested the lawyer Mahdi Zagrouba and other lawyers screamed in the background.

Zagrouba is a prominent lawyer known for his opposition to President Kais Saied.

On Saturday, police stormed the building of the Tunisian Order of Lawyers and arrested Sonia Dahmani, a lawyer also known for her fierce criticism of Saied.

Dahmani had said on a television program last week that Tunisia was a country where life was not pleasant. She was commenting on a speech by Saied, who said there was a conspiracy to push thousands of undocumented migrants from Sub-Saharan countries to stay in Tunisia.

Some opposition parties described the storming of the lawyers’ building on the weekend as “a shock and major escalation”, and the bar association declared a nationwide strike.

Dozens of lawyers including Zagrouba gathered earlier on Monday in front of the courtroom, chanting slogans including: “What a shame, the lawyers and the judiciary are under siege.”

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that “the judicial decision against Zagrouba was due to his physical and verbal assault on two policemen today near the courtroom.”

Tunisia’s public prosecutor on Monday extended the detention of two journalists, Mourad Zghidi and Borhen Bsaiss, who were also arrested on Saturday over radio comments and social media posts in a separate incident.

“It’s a horror scene… police entered in a showy manner and arrested Zagrouba and dragged him to the ground before some of them returned to smash the door glass,” said lawyer Kalthoum Kanou who was at the scene.

Saied took office following free elections in 2019, but two years later seized additional powers when he shut down the elected parliament and moved to rule by decree.

He also assumed authority over the judiciary, a step that the opposition called a coup.