The head of Egypt's Lawyers Syndicate Sameh Ashour (Photo: Al-Ahram)
The head of Egypt's lawyers syndicate Sameh Ashour has denied the existence of a crisis between the union's lawyers and the judicial authority, saying that the one-day strike from criminal courts held last week was a decision made during the general meeting of the main union and its branches.
In a statement on the syndicate's website Saturday night, Ashour also said there would be no unjustified escalation in the union's disagreement with the judiciary, and that negotiations on this matter should be kept private.
Ashour and the leaders of the country's branch syndicates held a meeting Saturday to discuss several issues including a recent verdict against eight lawyers in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya which prompted last week's protest.
Earlier this month, a Minya criminal court sentenced seven lawyers to five years in prison and another to three years over charges of blocking access to a public facility, preventing a judge from carrying out his duty and insulting the judiciary. The case dates back to a protest staged by the defendants outside a local court in March 2013.
The 2013 protest came after what the syndicate said was a judge’s harsh sentencing for some of the lawyers’ clients without hearing the defence.
The lawyers were tried and sentenced by the criminal court despite the fact that the judge who filed the initial complaint against them withdrew his motion. Shortly following the sentence, the syndicate decided to boycott court sessions in all of Minya's criminal courts.
However, syndicate spokesperson Magdy Abdel-Halim told Ahram Online that "the strike at Minya has been suspended this week, to provide a chance to negotiate the release of the lawyers."
Ashour agreed during Saturday's meeting to establish a special defence committee to deal with the Minya lawyers' case.
"The syndicate and judicial authority normally enjoy good relations; only the verdict against the lawyers of Minya affected that balance. It is bound to be solved, and the lawyers will be released," he added.
Egyptian lawyers held last week a nationwide one-day strike from attending session in the country’s criminal courts to protest the jail sentence against their colleagues in the southern governorate.
Abdel-Halim told Ahram Online earlier that “the strike aims to push for an urgent court hearing to release those lawyers in prison,”
“We are protesting for justice. We will refer the lawyers who did not comply with the strike to the syndicate’s disciplinary committee," he added.
The syndicate decided that the nationwide strike would be held for one day only so as not to negatively impact defendants and clients.
However, Ashour warned syndicate members about talking to the media and urged them not be dragged into statements that would exaggerate the severity of the standoff, saying there was "plotting against the lawyers syndicate, an intent to weaken it."