Monday, March 20, 2006

Judges demonstrate for judicial independence

Egypt has a long history of judicial independence, a fact the government has had to get around by using special courts, emergency courts and military courts to bypass the normal and legitimate judiciary. This has led to a number of concerns regarding fair trials in Egypt.

But judges also have another important role in Egypt: ensuring that elections are free and impartial. The government of course has made this an impossible responsibility, but it is one that many of the judges have taken seriously.

Now, several of the judges have decided they have had enough. Friday, members of a group of jurists known as the Judges Club demonstrated in Cairo, calling for greater judicial independence. One of the precipitating events occurred in February, when the government stripped six of the judges of their immunity and ordered that they be interrogated following their criticism of the December elections.

More than 1,000 judges and supporters are estimated to have participated in the demonstration. Some appeared with zippers across their mouths to symbolize the silencing of the judges who voiced criticism of the elections. This is the kind of demonstration that must attract the notice both of the Egyptian government, but also of the American.


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