Justice minister promises ‘extensive’ investigation into travel ban lift

The justice minister will conduct an “extensive” investigation into whether there was any intervention in the NGO funding case to lift the travel ban imposed on foreign suspects, state-run Al-Gomhurriya said Tuesday.

Minister Adel Abdel Hamid told the paper he will task judges to investigate complaints against Abdel Moez Ibrahim, head of the Cairo Court of Appeals. Many judges say Ibrahim was behind the decision to lift the ban.

On Thursday, six of the Americans charged in the case left the country after a quick judiciary decision was issued. The decision sparked uproar against Egypt’s ruling generals, who were accused of bowing to pressure from Washington.

The decision came shortly after the judges handling the case recused themselves from the trial. 

The newly elected Parliament on Saturday said it will question the prime minister on 11 March over the reasons behind lifting the travel ban and whether the judges looking into the case came under political pressure.

Both the government and the ruling military council have denied any interference in the judiciary. 

But the incident has renewed calls to purge the judiciary of Mubarak-era officials accused of trying to compromise judicial independence.

Recently, several judges have filed complaints against Ibrahim, decrying his alleged intervention in the trial of 43 local and foreign NGO workers, including 19 Americans, who were accused by Egyptian authorities of receiving illegal funds and operating without licenses.

Abdel Hamid said he will wait for the details of the memorandum submitted by Mohamed Mahmoud Shoukry — the head judge who bowed out of the trial — to the Supreme Judicial Council, in which he allegedly mentions the reasons for his withdrawal.

Meanwhile, independent Al-Dostour newspaper said the court of appeals' General Assembly is likely to hold a meeting next week to discuss calls to strip Ibrahim of his judicial authority.

The newspaper said 140 judges have filed complaints against Ibrahim.

On Saturday, a new panel of judges was selected to hear the trial.

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