Tunisian union says targeted by authorities after shunning constitution talks

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FILE PHOTO: Noureddine Taboubi, Secretary General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis
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By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) -The leader of Tunisia's powerful UGTT union said on Thursday it was being "targeted" by authorities after it refused to participate in talks on a new constitution called by President Kais Saied last month.

UGTT leader Noureddine Taboubi gave no details but sources close to the union said there were fears that Saied would use the judiciary to target the union after he sacked dozens of judges last week in a move seen as aimed at consolidating his one-man rule.

Saied assumed executive powers last summer in a move his opponents called a coup, subsequently setting aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree and suspending the elected parliament.

Saied this year replaced the Supreme Judicial Council, which had served as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia's 2011 revolution that ushered in democratic reforms.

The union's relationship with Saied was put under strain after the union refused last month to participate in a dialogue about the constitution.

The union, a key player in Tunisia with about 1 million members, has also called for a national strike on June 16 in protest against the government's economic policy.

Judicial and union sources said an appeals court will issue a decision in the coming period on a case brought by union members to challenge the legitimacy of a union congress that re-elected its current leadership.

Anas Hamaidi, president of the Association of Judges, said on Thursday that the justice minister asked the judge responsible for the union case to assign a specific department and a specific date for the case in sign of interference.

Hamaidi said the judge was dismissed after she refused to comply.

The Justice Ministry was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

The judges started a one-week strike on Monday to protest against the dismissal of dozens of judges.

(Reporting By Tarek AmaraEditing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman)

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