EGYPT: Lawyers strike in support of convicted colleagues
More than 100,000 lawyers across Egypt have gone on strike to show solidarity with two attorneys recently sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting a prosecutor in the city of Tanta.
The Egyptian judiciary establishment has received a shock to the system as courts have been abandoned and hundreds of cases have been postponed since Wednesday, when the verdicts against the two lawyers were read at a courthouse 60 miles north of Cairo.
"The verdict was unjust and it was affected by the lack of guarantees for a fair trial," Tarek Awadi, member of the Lawyers' Syndicate, told the Times. "It is an unprecedented incident in our judiciary system to convict lawyers for assaulting a prosecutor."
The saga began when lawyers Mohamed Ibrahim Saai Din and Mustafa Ahmed Fattouh exchanged slaps with prosecutor Basem Radwan Abu Rus more than a week ago. Details of the incident have not been made public.
Supporters of the two accused lawyers said Abu Rus, who was not arrested, should have also been charged with assault. They claimed the prosecutor provoked Din and Fattouh. Members of the Lawyers' syndicate voiced their dismay at the court and its prosecutors for acting as "opponent and arbitrator" at the same time.
Nationwide furor has surrounded the trial, especially after allegations arose that judges and their association, the Judges’ Club, were using the case to settle old scores against lawyers.
"We've been suffering from prosecutors' disrespect and abuse for many years and this case is the last straw," lawyer Ayman Emam tells the Times.
Judges' Club member Ashraf Zahran believes the lawyers have taken the issue too far by striking and demonstrating outside the Tanta court. He added: "Lawyers have the habit of exaggerating any conflict between them and prosecutors in order to falsely manipulate Egyptian public opinion that they are mistreated."
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Lawyers protesting outside Tanta Court. Credit: Al Destour