Tunisian police raids lawyers' bar offices and arrest commentator Sonia Dahmani

Tunisian Lawyers’ Bar announced a general regional strike in all Tunis courts

A protest defending press freedom takes place in Tunis. EPA
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Tunisian police raided the offices of a legal association and detained an outspoken figure on Saturday amid ongoing protests against the government.

Officers in plain clothes raided the Lawyers’ House, one of the offices of the country's legal union, in Tunis.

They arrested lawyer and commentator Sonia Dahmani, an activist said, after prosecutors issued a warrant over comments she made on a radio show.

Ms Dahmani had said: “What kind of extraordinary country [Tunisia] are we talking about? The one that half of its youth want to leave?”

We were taken by surprise by the sudden raid of masked individuals who verbally as well as physically assaulted lawyers
Laarousi Zguir, Tunisian Lawyers' Bar

It is the first time since the establishment of the Lawyers Bar that police forces have raided its offices with force.

The Tunisian Lawyers Bar has said that they would escalate their protests if more of their affiliates continue to face persecution because of their opinions or charges relating to their job.

A video on Facebook showed altercations between a number of lawyers and activists, who were present to support Ms Dahmani, and the police officers who conducted the raid.

A journalist from the channel France 24 was arrested and later released, the activist said. Two Tunisian journalists, Mourad Zghidi and Borhen Bsaies, were also arrested, according to local media outlets.

The lawyers' bar announced a general regional strike in all Tunis courts beginning on Monday after the raid.

“We were taken by surprise around 8.45pm by the sudden raid of a number of masked individuals who broke our offices’ doors and verbally as well as physically assaulted lawyers,” Laarousi Zguir, head of the Tunis division of the Tunisian Lawyers' Bar said at a press conference that day.

One lawyer has reportedly been injured and is receiving treatment.

“Lawyer Sonia Dahmani has been kidnapped and taken into an unknown location,” Mr Zguir said.

He added that judicial authorities are yet to respond to phone calls trying to find where Ms Dahmani has been taken.

Tunisian President Kais Saied issued a decree in September 2022 against spreading false information and rumours online, with prison sentences of up to 10 years.

The decree states that anyone found to have used information networks to “promote [or] publish … false news” to harm public security and national defence could face a five-year prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 Tunisian dinars ($15,600).

Since then, several bloggers, activists, journalists and lawyers have faced charges relating to online or public media statements that criticises Mr Saied and his government.

Some political opponents have been jailed based on the same decree.

Updated: May 13, 2024, 10:00 AM