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PALLEKELE: Australia’s Moises Henriques (L) throws the ball in an attempt to run out as Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis (R) successfully dives and avoids being run out during the first T20 international cricket match between Sri Lanka and Australia at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Pallekele yesterday. — AFP
PALLEKELE: Australia’s Moises Henriques (L) throws the ball in an attempt to run out as Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis (R) successfully dives and avoids being run out during the first T20 international cricket match between Sri Lanka and Australia at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Pallekele yesterday. — AFP

Australia breaks record, beat S Lanka in first T20

Govt blasts foreign criticism as 'interference'

TUNIS: Hundreds of lawyers, activists and others demonstrated on Thursday in the Tunisian capital over the arrest of two lawyers in police raids on the national bar association, AFP journalists said. Protesters gathered near the main courthouse in Tunis as police barred journalists from entering the building at the behest of the prosecutor, reporters were told. Inside, black-robed lawyers chanted "Freedom!" and "The police state belongs in the past!", according to videos streamed live on social media.

The protest was called by the bar association which this week also decided on a nationwide strike after Sonia Dahmani and Mehdi Zagrouba were arrested when police raided its headquarters on Saturday and Monday. Zagrouba was taken to hospital after fainting and being beaten while in custody, lawyers said. The president of the bar, Hatem Meziou, on Tuesday called for an end to "the abuse of power" and "violence" targeting lawyers.

He called the police raids unlawful and urged President Kais Saied to intervene. But Saied said Thursday that "the bar association is located on Tunisian soil and is not subject to (its own) territorial regime so that anyone can hide there". He said the arrests took place "in full respect for Tunisian law, which guarantees equality and the right to a fair trial", according to a video released by the presidency on social media. Saied, who granted himself full authority after a sweeping power grab 2021, said that "no one is above the law".

The European Union, France and the United States have all expressed concern after the two lawyers were detained. Saied on Thursday called such criticism foreign "interference", and told the foreign ministry to "summon as soon as possible the ambassadors of a number of countries", without specifying which ones.

Interference?

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday denounced foreign "interference" following international criticism of a recent flurry of arrests of political commentators, lawyers and journalists in the North African country. Saied, who in 2021 orchestrated a sweeping power grab, ordered the foreign ministry to summon diplomats and "inform them that Tunisia is an independent state". Speaking during a televised meeting, the president told Mounir Ben Rjiba, state secretary to the foreign ministry, to "summon as soon as possible the ambassadors of a number of countries", without specifying which ones.

Ben Rjiba was asked to "strongly object to them that what they are doing is a blatant interference in our internal affairs". "Inform them that Tunisia is an independent state that adheres to its sovereignty," Saied added. "We didn't interfere in their affairs when they arrested protesters... who denounced the war of genocide against the Palestinian people," he added, referring to demonstrations on university campuses in the United States and elsewhere over the Israel-Hamas war.

Several prominent Tunisian pundits, journalists, lawyers and civil society figures have been arrested in recent days, many of whom over a decree that punishes "spreading false information" with up to five years in prison. Since Decree 54 came into force with Saied's ratification in 2022, more than 60 journalists, lawyers and opposition figures have been prosecuted under it, according to the National Union of Tunisian Journalists. - AFP

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