New Egypt charter 'encroachment on judiciary': Dismissed Judge Gebaly
Ahram Online, Tuesday 8 Jan 2013
Mubarak-era judge Tahani El-Gebaly - recently dismissed under terms of new constitution - bashes newly-passed charter at Tuesday press conference

Tahani El-Gebaly, Mubarak-era judge and former vice-president of Egypt's High Constitutional Court (HCC), held a press conference on Tuesday morning at the headquarters of Egypt's Judges Club in which she condemned the country's newly-approved constitution.

The conference, which was broadcast live on Al Jazeera Mubasher, was attended by a number of Egyptian law experts, including Mohamed Nour Farahat, Fouad Riyad, Hossam Eissa and Mona Zulfaqar.

"The newly approved constitution breached all legal norms by calling for the dismissal of seven judges in a flagrant act of revenge," El-Gebaly stated at the event, stressing that Egypt's judiciary was independent and that its members could not be subject to dismissal.

"This so-called charter is a blatant encroachment on the judiciary," she asserted.

El-Gebaly – appointed to the HCC in 2003 – was dismissed along with seven other Mubarak-era judges late last month, according to the terms of the new constitution.

Egypt's new constitution was approved via popular referendum in December, when almost 64 per cent of Egyptian voters endorsed the draft charter.

Article 233 of the new constitution stipulates that the HCC's 11 longest-serving judges, including the current president, make up the court. Previously, the court's bench was comprised of a total of 19 judges.

On Sunday, El-Gebaly lodged an appeal with the HCC against Egypt's new national charter, claiming the document was "illegitimate."

To support her assertions, she pointed to the fact that only 20 per cent of Egypt's 52 million eligible voters had cast ballots in favour of the document; particularly low turnout rates (32.9 per cent); and several reported electoral violations.

El-Gebaly's press conference came within the context of a months-long struggle between Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi – who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood – and Egypt's Mubarak-era judiciary. The crisis reached a climax late November, when Morsi ordered Egypt's longstanding prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud – appointed by the ousted president in 2006 – to retire.