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Tunisian striking judges, lawyers protest president’s action

Tunisian lawyers and judges held a small protest outside the capital’s courts Wednesday as part of their weeklong strike following the president’s dismissal of 57 judges.

President Kais Saied’s removal of the judges was the latest sign of growing interference in the judiciary as he tightens his grip on power. Critics accused Saied of staging a coup in July 2021 after he sacked the government and took on executive powers.

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Dozens of lawyers and activists gathered on the steps of the Palace of Justice in Tunis to denounce Saied’s actions. Some shouted “Down with the coup,” and others chanted, “Judicial authority, no police orders.”

Several lawyers told The Associated Press they would continue their opposition to the president’s actions, which include ditching Tunisia’s 2014 constitution to rule instead by decree.

Last week, Saied justified his actions by listing a long series of accusations with scant evidence against dozens of judges, ranging from alleged corruption and the illegal amassing of wealth to protecting terrorists and sexual harassment.

Hundreds of judges unanimously voted over the weekend to hold a sit-in and strike. They accused the president of ignoring the constitution and removing judges without “recourse to disciplinary procedure.”

Courtrooms across the North African country have been closed since Monday. Anas Hamadi, president of the Association of Tunisian Magistrates, said 99 percent of judges participated on the first day of the strike. The protest will continue until the dismissed jurists are reinstated, Hamadi said.

In response, Saied ordered judges’ salaries to be reduced in accordance with the number of strike days.

Saied conferred on himself sweeping powers last year, measures the president claimed were needed to “save the country from imminent peril” and to fight widespread corruption.

Earlier this year, he replaced Tunisia’s Supreme Judicial Council. The council had been a key guarantor of judicial independence since the country’s 2011 revolution, which deposed a longtime autocratic leader and introduced democratic reforms.

Under pressure from Tunisia’s allies, who are concerned about democratic backsliding in the country, Saied laid out a roadmap that foresees organizing a July 25 referendum on political reforms and a Dec. 17 parliamentary election.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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