A court hearing to consider overturning a leadership vote at the congress of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LTDH) was put off until January 15 after a preliminary session on Monday.
A Tunis court ruled to postpone the hearing on the request of prosecution lawyer Faysal Triki, whose clients want election results from LTDH's last congress to be overturned on the basis of legal irregularities.
The vote at the end of October returned a new executive committee to the LTDH including members some perceived as radicals.
Four unsuccessful candidates then brought a court action against the results of the poll.
The league's activities were suspended at the end of November in a court ruling after the unsuccessful candidates in the election said the vote was flawed.
A coalition of other non-governmental organizations leapt to the rescue of the LTDH, saying that the court's decision had been "a political decision dressed up in judicial clothing.”
More than 70 lawyers are taking part in the defense of LTDH's executive committee, which was Monday represented by its president, Mokhtar Trifi, and Hela Abdeljawad, who chaired the October congress.
The court rejected a verbal request from the prosecution to subpoena the official receiver who was appointed on November 30 to manage the LTDH after the successful hearing brought by the four failed election hopefuls.
The government has denied having anything to do with the November court ruling placing the rights group in the hands of the judicial authority. Trifi contends that this amounted to "de facto dissolution" of the league.
A copy of the emergency ruling was presented to the court on Monday by prosecution counsel Triki.
The defence presented the court with a report questioning the legal credentials of the plaintiffs -- who were not present at the hearing -- as well as their motivation in bringing an action against the LTDH.
The four unsuccessful candidates include a journalist, a former deputy from the legal opposition and two activists from the governing Constitutional Democratic Rally.
They brought their action against the LTDH alleging irregularities in the organization, including the non-renewal of regional group membership on time and an easygoing reading of the statutes on the length of mandates.
The four claim that this favored the re-election of the two outgoing vice presidents, Khemaies Ksila, tried and imprisoned during his term, and Slaheddine Jourchi, former founder member of banned Islamic group Ennahda.
Jourchi on Monday was called to appear before the Republic's chief prosecutor to respond to criticism the LTDH has made alleging harassment of its members.
Jourchi told reporters that he made no comment to the court, after being refused legal assistance.
Monday's court action was followed by US and French diplomats as well as local and international human rights organizations including the International Federation of Human Rights.
The LTDH was founded in 1977 as the first human rights organisation in the Arab world -- TUNIS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )