Judges, Egyptian Gov. Clash Over Legislative Polls

Judges, Egyptian Gov. Clash Over Legislative Polls

The judges have repeatedly complained of election violence by police and NDP thugs.

Additional Reporting by Hamdy Al Husseini, IOL Correspondent

CAIRO, November 28, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Tensions are simmering between Egyptian judges and the government over the right to talk to the media about the three-phased legislative elections.

“Like other citizens, judges are entitled to express his/her opinion and criticize the election process,” Judge Hisham Bastawisi, the deputy head of the Court of Cassation, told IslamOnline.net Monday, November 28.

“Talking about the independence of the judicial system is not politics but the state’s control over it is.”

Bastawisi stressed that judges want to steer clear of politics.

The official Supreme Judicial Council on Sunday, November 27, referred ten high-level judges to the public persecutor on charges of talking to the media.

In a statement, the council said talking to the media is “a stark violation of the judicial authority’s law which bans meddling in politics.”

No Hushing

A member of the Judges Union dismissed the government’s move as ineffective, saying it was an attempt to “terrorize” judges.

“This would never silence the voice of judges in disclosing the truth to the public opinion,” he told IOL.

“After agreeing to supervise the elections, judges are duty-bound to confront any intervention to affect the results from any party.”

Thugs hired by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and police have intimidated judges and voters alike in the run-offs of the second phase of Egypt’s parliamentary election, which took place on Saturday, November 26, forcing the judiciary to cancel voting in some constituencies.

Last week, Egypt’s Judges Union pressed for army protection to shield its members against attacks by thugs in the current parliamentary elections.

Monitoring Access

Egyptian judges have decided to deploy on the streets in a bid to ensure access to polling stations.

“Reserve judges will be posted in the eight governorates where the polls will take place starting on Thursday,” vice president of the cassation court Mahmud Mekki told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Judges manning their polling stations had been unable to monitor the violations taking place outside and ensure that security forces would let voters cast their ballots.

Mekki said the new measure — which the judges union clinched after a stormy session with the justice minister — was “very positive”.

He also announced a concession on the part of the electoral commission allowing each judge to announce his polling station’s individual results upon arriving in the center where the constituency’s results are added up.

“This will allow candidates to control the counting process,” said Mekki.

Until now, the head of the constituency’s electoral commission was the only one to have knowledge of all the results.

Some 137 Egyptian judges have supported a written testimony of a fellow judge accusing authorities of “flagrant falsification” of election results, in favor of the NDP.

Writing in Egypt’s independent daily Al-Masri Al-Youm, Judge Nuha Al-Zeini documented falsification of the election results in Bandar Damanhur – in Al-Bihaira governorate, some 170 kms northwest of Cairo, where Mustafa Al-Fiqi, NDP candidate, was declared winner.

More Arrests

In a related development, some 200 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were rounded up Monday in the eight provinces where the final phase of Egypt’s parliamentary polls is due to kick off this week.

Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Mohammed Habib told AFP people were detained in some of the constituencies where 49 candidates of the officially banned opposition movement are to stand in Thursday’s third round of the three-stage elections.

He said 534 people detained in similar raids during the first two phases were still behind bars.

The legislative elections are demonstrating a soaring popularity of the officially banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood.

The group has now won 76 seats in the legislature with slightly less than a third of the places still to be contested.