Egypt judges summoned to disciplinary hearing

Deputy head of court of cassation believes justice ministry’s decision is way of silencing more vocal judges.

 Two Egyptian reformist judges have been summoned to a disciplinary hearing which could see them sacked over charges they made of fraud in last year’s parliamentary elections, a judicial source said Monday.

Mahmud Mekki and Hisham al-Bastawissi, two members of the judges syndicate who have been calling for a more independent judiciary, have been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by Justice Minister Mahmud Abuleil for leaking information to the press on the alleged involvement of fellow judges in electoral fraud during the November-December polls, said the source.

Ahmed Mekki, deputy head of the court of cassation and a leading advocate of reforms, believes that the latest decision by the ministry of justice is a way of silencing the more vocal judges.

The government “wants judges who follow orders and it wants to intimidate them so they can stop asking for an independent judiciary,” Mekki said.

“There is a real worry that this could be the beginning of another ’massacre of the judges’,” he said referring to the dismissal by president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1969 of over 100 reformist judges who mounted an aggressive campaign against the regime by calling for reforms.

Mekki called on Egyptian society to support the judges and stressed that the ministry’s decision will not stop the reformist camp’s campaign.

The two judges in question declined to comment on the details of the as yet undated hearing, saying only that it was expected.

“This move was expected in light of the government’s efforts to turn everyone who calls for reforms into a suspect,” said Bastawisi.

“It is proof in itself of the lack of independence of the judiciary because if the judiciary were independent, the minister of justice would not be able to discipline the judges,” he said.

According to the Egyptian constitution, judges supervise the polls.

The month-long legislative polls that ended in December 2005 were marked by deadly clashes and widespread voter obstruction by police and thugs connected to President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party.

The judges syndicate will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to decide the response to the ministry’s latest decision.