Yet another significant day dawns, as judges Mahmoud Mekky and Hisham al-Bastawisy prepare to reappear before the disciplinary board entrusted with reviewing their “competence” to hold their judicial posts. They may very well be dismissed, censured, or the hearing adjourned yet again.
There’s also the slight possibility that the ministerial order referring them to the board will be voided, in exchange for judges disbanding their weeks-long sit-in at the Judges Club. A farrago of government emissaries to the Club and to disciplinary board president Fathi Khalifa have been attempting to broker just such a deal, but it appears that all negotiations have reached an impasse.
Meanwhile, in what may very well be a first, sitting Egyptians judges have penned an opinion piece in a major foreign newspaper. Mekky and Bastawisi wrote this article in the British Guardian outlining their views, thus considerably widening the audience for this remarkable drama. Particularly notable are the two judges’ firm avowals of self-reliance in their battle for autonomy. As is to be expected, powerful third parties are now intensely interested in what used to be the marginal and rarefied affair of Egyptian judicial independence, viz. American and European governments. I read Mekky and Bastawisi’s concluding statement as a clear signal that they will have no truck with attempts to appropriate their struggle by those who have their own agendas: “In Egypt we don’t have any confidence in US policy because it is a contradictory policy that pays lip service to democracy while supporting dictatorships. We have confidence in the Egyptian people. We welcome support from any quarter, but we won’t rely on it. We will depend on ourselves in our campaign for reform and change.”
Organised elements of the Egyptian public continue to declare their solidarity with judges. There are now some 100 activists of all political persuasions being detained for their unceasing support of the judges, among them three women activists (Nada al-Qassas, Asma’ Ali, Rasha ‘Azab), feisty bloggers-demonstrators Alaa Abdel Fattah, Malek Mustafa, and Muhammad al-Sharqawi, veteran demonstrator Kamal Khalil, journalists Ibrahim al-Sahari and Saher Gad, and some 50 members of the Muslim Brothers.
A medley of “Egyptian National Forces” have signed a short statement calling for the release of all detainees and reaffirming solidarity with judges. The signatories are Kifaya, the Nasserist Party, the Communist Party, Freedom Now, the Muslim Brothers, the 9 March movement for university’s independence, Writers and Artists for Change, The Street is Ours, Journalists for Change, the Egyptian Socialist Party, the Tagammu’ Party, the Socialist People’s Party, the Labour Party, the Ghad Party, the Karama Party, Youth for Change, the Revolutionary Socialists Organisation, the Pharmacists’ and Physicians Syndicates.
The date and time: 11 May, 10 am
The place: High Court building
The slogan: Yes to judicial independence, no to tyranny and to the state of emergency, long live the Egyptian national movement.
*AP Photo, April 27, 2006.