Tunisia boots top EU official over interference in internal affairs
Tunisia's president gave the head of the European trade union 24 hours to leave the country.
Tunisian President Kais Saied issued an order on Saturday to expel the head of the European trade union for her "blatant interference" in the Tunisia's internal affairs and gave her 24 hours to leave the country.
The presidency's office stated, "On the orders of President Kais Saied, Tunisian authorities ordered the departure of Esther Lynch," who is the head of the European Trade Union Confederation.
She [Lynch] "took part in a demonstration organized by the (UGTT trade union federation) and made comments that constituted blatant interference in Tunisia's internal affairs," the statement added, noting that she is now considered "persona non grata".
The presidential orders came in light of a speech that Lynch gave earlier today during a gathering of thousands protesting against the country's economic and social issues and in objection to the arrest of Anis Kaabi, a UGTT top official who was apprehended by the government on January 31 following a strike carried out by toll booth workers.
Kaabi is expected to appear before a judge on February 23 to be trialed on charges of "using his position to harm public authorities".
The trade union has described the arrest as "a blow to union work and a violation of union rights".
The protests, organized by the UGTT, took place mainly in Sfax, Tunisia's second-largest city.
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Lynch said that she came here [the protest] to convey a message of "solidarity from 45 million workers around Europe".
"We say to governments: hands off our trade unions, free our leaders," the European official added, calling on the government to "sit down and negotiate with the UGTT for a solution" to the country's deteriorating state of affairs.
Tunisia has faced mounting economic woes in recent months, with repeated strikes by teachers and transportation workers, along with shortages of basic goods, including milk, as farmers struggle to pay for fodder.
UGTT's deputy chief Othmane Jallouli, in an address to the demonstrators, said that "today, any union member can be sacked simply for expressing an opinion".
Othmane Jallouli, the UGTT's deputy chief, told demonstrators that "today, any union member can be sacked simply for expressing an opinion".
Protesters also marched against the government's talks with the International Monetary Fund over a loan estimated at $1.9 billion, where the fund demanded that the country carry out reforms, including the gradual lifting of subsidies on basic goods and restructuring of public companies.
Demonstrators chanted that "Tunisia is not for sale!" and "no to removing subsidies!".
Some raised loaves of bread in a symbol of protest at soaring living costs.
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