Two Egypt Judges Sent to Disciplinary Board

The Egyptian government has sent two prominent judges to a disciplinary board for possible expulsion from the judiciary, raising the stakes in a conflict between the government and judges seeking judicial independence. The decision by Justice Minister Mahmoud Aboul Leil provoked a storm in Parliament yesterday when opposition members called for an urgent debate and the speaker refused to allow one.

The government has not announced the decision but one of the judges, Mahmoud Mekky, told Reuters Aboul Leil had confirmed it. “Colleagues whom we trust contacted the minister of justice to find out the truth and he told them that measures had been taken against me and Judge Hesham Bastawisi,” the judge said. Mekky and Bastawisi, who are both deputy presidents of the Court of Cassation, have been in the forefront of the campaign for judicial independence from the Ministry of Justice.

The campaign, backed by several thousand of the country’s judges, gained ground last year during preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections, which are supposed to take place under full judicial supervision. Mekky and Bastawisi face questioning about their public remarks last year on abuses, which took place in the elections.

At public meetings and in reports by the independent Judges Club, many judges said electoral fraud was commonplace.

The independent daily Al Masry Al Yom said yesterday the decision to send the judges to the disciplinary committee could be the prelude to a mass dismissal of judges. In Parliament yesterday, Speaker Fathi Sorour prevented a debate on the judges on the grounds the judiciary was independent and Parliament could not interfere in its affairs.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group in Parliament, and other opposition groups protested at Sorour’s decision but he insisted, threatening to throw out anyone who challenged it. “It is not permitted to talk about the judiciary in the chamber … Don’t force me to take a decision to expel you from the chamber,” the speaker said. The leadership of the Judges Club will hold an urgent meeting on Tuesday to prepare a response to the government.