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Egypt's beleaguered justice minister expresses desire to resign

Judge Ahmed Mekki says he wants to step down because of continual protests against magistrates and court rulings

Ahram Online , Wednesday 20 Mar 2013
Egypt
Egypt's Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki (Photo: Reuters)
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Egyptian Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki requested on Wednesday to be relieved of his duties in protest at recurrent actions taken by the public and media against the judicial system.

Mekki, who revealed his intention to resign during a cabinet meeting, said his decision came as result of continuous demonstrations against court orders, and repeated protests surrounding courthouses and prosecution offices.

As a result, the cabinet decided to discuss several suggestions aiming at "protecting the independence of the judiciary and protecting justice," including providing sufficient security at judicial institutions.

Mekki also cited the "inflammatory speech" of national media, saying smear campaigns were being launched with the intention to make the incumbent government fail, although it is "keen to achieve the interests of the nation."

"The government is very eager to [maintain] the independence of the judiciary, and achieve justice in Egypt, especially after the January 25 revolution," Mekki said during the meeting.

“Justice is one of the most important demands behind the revolution," he added, according to Ahram's Arabic news website.

The cabinet, whose members expressed support for Mekki and his viewpoint, is currently discussing approving a police unit designated to protect judicial premises. The unit shall operate in coordination with the justice and interior ministries.

Furthermore, the cabinet stressed that "legal action would be taken against instigators, those who justify the crimes of assaulting judicial institutions or lay siege on them, and providing [such crimes] with political cover."

Many courts across the nation saw violence over the past two years when either plaintiffs or relatives of defendants received verdicts that didn’t satisfy them.

The consecutive acquittals of policemen accused of killing peaceful protesters during the 2011 uprising also regularly saw violent reactions from the families of the deceased.

The judicial system also faced pressure from other sources, including Muslim Brotherhood members who laid siege to the High Constitutional Court to prevent judges from ruling on the constitutionality of the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, late in 2012, leading the HCC to temporarily freeze its work.

The Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, dominates the Shura Council through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.

More recently in January, the death sentences handed to 21 Port Said residents convicted of involvement in an incident of stadium violence provoked several weeks of clashes and protests in the city.

Television presenters and journalists repeatedly questioned the integrity of the judicial system and prosecutor-general as the verdicts in the case were released.

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