Egypt: Judgement day

The confrontation between the ruling party and the judiciary promises ominous consequences – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Gamal Essam El-Din, April 24, 20113.

On Wednesday the Shura Council began discussing amendments to the law regulating the performance of judicial authority (Law 46/1972).

The move follows a hostile campaign against judges led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and its ally, the Wasat Party. Islamist deputies have alleged that judges are leading a counter-revolution against President Mohamed Morsi.  

The campaign peaked last Friday when the Muslim Brotherhood, which has refrained from organising street protests in recent months claiming they undermined political stability, mobilised hundreds of supporters to demonstrate and demand a purge of the judiciary. Brotherhood supporters, backed by heavily armed Central Security Forces, not only clashed violently with members of revolutionary movements stationed in Tahrir Square but arrested some of them.

Ahmed Fahmi, Shura Council chairman and a leading member of the FJP, said on Tuesday that amendments submitted by the Wasat Party had been referred to the council’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Taher Abdel-Mohsen, deputy chairman of the committee, told parliamentary correspondents on Tuesday that the following day’s session would be devoted to discussing the changes to the judicial law submitted by the Wasat Party.

In a press conference held on 17 April Wasat MPs claimed that the majority of judges were implicated in corrupt practices and were leading a counter-revolution … //

… Several anti-Brotherhood revolutionary movements, including the National Salvation Front (NSF), have asked MPs to resign from the Shura Council in protest at the assault on the judiciary. Several non-Islamist MPs have indicated that they will walk out of any plenary session devoted to discussing the Wasat amendments.

Wafd Party deputies say they are against resigning from the council over the issue. Wafd parliamentary spokesman Mohamed Abul-Enein has condemned the Wasat proposals, pointing out that “the constitution does not allow MPs to propose laws.”

“This is a kind of a new dictatorship, worse than we experienced under Mubarak,” he said.

Deputy Justice Minister Omar Sherif appeared to support Abul-Enein’s contention.

“The constitution does not allow Shura Council deputies to propose legislation,” said Sherif. “This right, according to Article 101, is reserved for the presiden

Judges reacted quickly to the attacks. The strongest response came from the Cairo Judges Club. Chairman Ahmed Al-Zind held a press conference on 22 April in which he accused the Muslim Brotherhood of leading a campaign of defamation against judges and announced that a memorandum itemising the Morsi regime’s attacks against the independence of the judiciary was being prepared and would be forwarded to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Al-Zind also appealed to US President Barack Obama, claiming that “while America spends millions of dollars to spread freedom around the world it has done nothing for Egyptians.”

Al-Zind’s mention of Obama infuriated the Brotherhood’s FJP MPs.

“The day of judgement for those who seek Obama’s help is very near,” intoned FJP spokesman Essam Al-Erian. “Their corruption, including the acquisition of large plots of land under the former regime, will be exposed.”

Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki, who tendered his resignation to protest against what he said were plans to strip the judiciary of any independence, insisted last week that “amendments of the judicial authority law cannot be discussed in the absence of close consultation with judges.”

On Tuesday Morsi’s Islamist-leaning adviser on legal affairs submitted his resignation to protest against “the lack of a clear vision in administering the state and the insistence on the continuation of Hisham Kandil’s cabinet despite its failure.” He also said in his letter of resignation that there are attempts to curb judicial independence and destroy the reputation of judges.

Brotherhood MPs remain adamant that they will use their council majority to discuss the Wasat amendments. A major confrontation is in the offing.
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