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Dozens of bearded police officers staged a protest Tuesday outside the Interior Ministry headquarters in downtown Cairo, holding banners calling on the ministry to respect a judicial ruling ordering their return to work.
Police officers asserting their right to grow facial hair won a victory when the Supreme Administrative Court in Cairo turned down the interior minister's challenge to a previous court ruling ordering the dismissed officers reinstated.
An Interior Ministry source argued that the Administrative Court's ruling had nothing to do with the officers' right to grow their beards
In March, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim demoted 17 police officers for growing beards in violation of ministry rules related to officer appearance. The officers alleged dozens of other policemen had been suspended for the same reason, which promoted the group to file a lawsuit challenging the decision.
The court's advisory panel, the State Commissioners Authority, had supported a final ruling granting police personnel the right to grow their beards, affirming a previous Alexandria Administrative Court ruling to that effect.
The interior minister had challenged the Alexandria court ruling, saying personnel disciplinary measures are the purview of ministry committees and do not fall within the jurisdiction of administrative courts.
But the authority responded by saying the Constitution protects personal freedoms and rights and that growing a beard is a religious practice. The act does not violate Law 109/1971 governing police forces, nor ministry regulations issued in 2012. Neither does it threaten public interest, according to the report prepared by Mohamed Hendawy, who is also vice president of the State Council.
The law allows the Interior Ministry to discipline officers who do not fulfill their duties, but growing a beard does not constitute a breach of duty or require punishment, the authority said.
The Administrative Court in Alexandria had said allowing officers to grow their beards would not threaten the public interest, undermine their work or diminish people’s trust in the police force.
Administrative judiciary circuits in Beheira and Tanta also ruled against the Interior Ministry’s decision last year, while the Cairo Administrative Court upheld the disciplinary measures in July.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm