- Middle East/North Africa
Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah on Thursday reversed a decision to transfer the East Cairo attorney general who was leading investigations into clashes between the president’s opponents and supporters outside the presidential palace.
Abdallah ordered Attorney General Mostafa Khater’s transfer to Beni Suef Wednesday in “the interest of work” following Khater's decision to release 137 suspects detained following protest clashes on 5 December for lack of evidence. Another 12 were also detained on charges of possessing firearms, Molotov cocktails and bladed weapons.
Abdallah’s reversal perhaps came in response to a memorandum Khater sent to the Supreme Judicial Council Thursday leveling serious accusations of official corruption and asking to be reassigned to work as a judge rather than for the prosecution.
The same demand was expressed by Ibrahim Saleh, the head of the Heliopolis prosecution, who also supervised the protest investigations.
Both prosecutors objected to pressure from the general prosecutor and the president’s office to extend the suspects’ detention despite what they said was a complete lack of evidence.
Khater said in the memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm, that he and Saleh had met with the president’s chief of staff at the palace, who told them 49 suspects possessing guns and other weapons had been arrested with the aid of protesters. According to Khater, all the suspects had been severely beaten and had injuries. The suspects said Muslim Brotherhood members had detained and tortured them until they were willing to say they had been paid to riot.
During the investigations into the protest violence, state TV broadcast a speech in which President Mohamed Morsy alleged that the detained suspects had confessed to receiving money and that there was evidence to prove that. Khater said the investigations had turned up nothing to substantiate that claim.
When the issue was referred to the head of the prosecutor general’s technical office for a decision on the detainees, Khater says the prosecutor general was informed that there was no evidence and the interrogation team agreed to release all but four who had firearms in their possession when they were arrested.
Khater also said that some 2,000 lawyers and members of the suspects’ families gathered around a court in Heliopolis calling for the suspects’ release.
Khater then alleges that prosecutors were ordered to hold a group of suspects from among the poorer, unemployed detainees, and that there were 45 people who fulfilled that description. When the team refused to do so, the decision to release them was announced.
Saleh told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he wanted to return to work as a judge in a gesture of solidarity with Khater. He added that they were subject to pressure following the decision to release the suspects, but did not give any details.
The East Cairo Prosecution Office called an emergency meeting at the Judges Club Thursday to discuss the repercussions of the executive branch’s intervention in the work of the judiciary. They also decided to completely suspend work within the office in response to Abdallah’s decision to transfer Khater to Beni Suef for six months.
Several recommendations were issued following the meeting, including that Khater stay in his position. Participants in the meeting also asked that Abdallah step down as prosecutor general and that Attorney General Ahmed Gamal Eddin Montasser decline his appointment to replace Khater.
Morsy appointed Abdallah to the top prosecution position in late November after sacking his predecessor, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, in a move that was condemned as an intervention from the executive branch in the work of the judiciary.
Judicial sources told Al-Masry al-Youm that Abdallah indirectly admitted that he discussed the detention of the Ettehadiya suspects with Khater.
The source added that the prosecutor general said in a lecture at the Judicial Studies Center on Tuesday that he did not pressure Khater to detain the suspects in the presidential palace clashes and that he only said that it was “illogical to release them all.”
The source said the prosecutor general was accompanied by Hossam al-Gheriany, the head of the Constituent Assembly and the National Council for Human Rights, and Nagy Derbala, the vice president of the Court of Cassation, who attempted to persuade their audience of young public prosecutors to end their strike and supervise the referendum on the constitution.
The audience reacted angrily when threatened by Gheriany and Abdallah, the source added, who said the prosecutors may be asked “to clock in and out like employees” so that those who fail to attend the referendum would be discovered. The audience said this statement sounded like a tacit threat to influence them to change their position on the constitutional poll.