Tensions between Egypt’s judges and lawyers escalated on Saturday after the Judges Club called for closing courts nationwide until authorities provide full protection and security for judges inside courts.
The Judges Club is responding to moves by lawyers who are angry at a law being prepared now by Egypt’s judges concerning the independence of the judiciary.
Lawyers say that they were completely ignored in discussing this law, which affects them as well.
The judges propose two conflicting drafts for a pivotal law that will regulate the judiciary. The draft proposed by a committee headed by influential judge Ahmed Mekki is believed to ensure a fully independent judiciary that limits the role of the government's executive branch in intervening the judges’ affairs. The second draft, however, is believed to achieve social and economic welfare for judges. The second draft is proposed by head of the Egyptian Judges Club Ahmed al-Zend.
However, striking lawyers say that both draft laws share the same vision in terms of ignoring the role of lawyers in achieving justice.
Al-Zend held a meeting Friday evening with the heads the nationwide judges clubs to discuss what they called lawyers' encroachments during the lawyers' strike of the past few days.
It is not yet clear how judges will respond to the call. On Saturday the Court of Appeals oversaw a case to decide whether to replace the judges presiding over former President Hosni Mubarak's trial.
Judge Ibrahim al-Ashry, a member of the Judges Club board, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the club will issue a statement of apology to the Egyptian people within hours, stressing that judges were forced to take the move because they are unsure of being able to achieve justice inside courtrooms.
The Judges Club has called an emergency general assembly next Friday to discuss the crisis.
Lawyers objected to various provisions in the two draft laws. For example, they rejected the provision that gives the judges the authority to detain lawyers if they “disturb” a court session. Lawyers said that such vague language could be used to affect their immunity.
They also demanded the cancelation of the article which allows for a prosecutor to accept a lawsuit in the absence of lawyers. They said this article would put an end to their profession.
Lawyers have protested over the past few days, during which their anger escalated and they prevented judges from entering courts. In Kafr el-Sheikh Governorate, protesting lawyers closed the courts with chains.
The lawyers threatened to escalate the protests, to suspend work in all courts nationwide, and to close some of them.