Tunisian judges on Sunday rejected President Kais Saied's moves to disband the council that oversees them, a move they see as undermining their independence, setting up a new struggle over his consolidation of power.
Saied announced overnight he was dissolving the Supreme Judicial Council, one of the few remaining state bodies still able to act independently of him, the latest in a series of moves his opponents call a coup.
In July he suddenly suspended parliament, dismissed the prime minister and said he could rule by decree, and he has since said he will rewrite the 2014 democratic constitution before putting it to a public referendum.
Saied has vowed to uphold rights and freedoms won in the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy, but his critics say he is leaning increasingly on the security forces and fear he will take a harsher stance against dissent.
However, Tunisia's dire economic problems and a looming crisis in public finances risk undermining Saied's declared plan to reset the 2011 revolution with a new constitution, raising the possibility of public unrest.
Saied has been tussling with the judiciary for months, criticising its decisions, accusing it of corruption and saying it has been infiltrated by his political enemies.
The Supreme Judicial Council head, Youssef Bouzakher, early on Sunday said its dissolution was illegal and marked an attempt to bring judges under presidential instruction.