Update: Justice Ministry condemns Friday protest

The Justice Ministry has condemned the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Cleansing the Judiciary” protest planned for Friday in front of the High Court.

“Demonstrating in front of the courts is not permissible, because it disrupts the passage of justice,” ministry spokesperson Ahmed Roshdy said in an official statement issued Thursday.

The judiciary is completely independent and keeps itself separated “from the pressures of public opinion and political factions,” Roshdy assured.

“This [cleansing] must take place in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth by law,” the statement warned.

The statement also condemned the protesters’ calls for lowering the mandatory age of retirement for judges and the drafting of a new bill regulating the judiciary, which the ministry said could only occur in consultation with the judges themselves, and in accordance with the Constitution.

Political forces themselves are divided about the protest. The Salafi Dawah plans to pass on the demonstration, saying it favors practical solutions instead.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other groups have called the protest to push for the passage of a law governing the judiciary, the prosecution of officials involved in protester deaths and the return of funds smuggled abroad. It also comes in response to a controversial court decision this week to release former President Hosni Mubarak pending the resumption of his retrial over protester deaths during the 2011 revolution.

Mubarak was convicted in June 2012 of failing to prevent the killings and is still in custody on corruption charges in a separate case.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Ahmed Aref told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the protest would end Friday evening and that there was no intention to conduct a prolonged sit-in.

The Salafi Dawah, an Alexandria-based group of Salafi leaders and scholars, cited the protest’s lack of specific demands and called on political powers to offer practical solutions instead of taking to the street.

In a press statement Thursday, the group called on law professors to submit their proposals addressing the decision to release Mubarak and urged the prosecutor general to gather new evidence in the case. The group also asked the prosecution to collect evidence against the former president on corruption charges to ensure his continued detention.

Its statement advised the Shura Council not to rush the proposed Judicial Authority Law through approval, emphasizing that the upper house of Parliament only has exceptional legislative powers until a new lower house is elected. The group also advocated against the provision lowering the retirement age for judges by 10 years, saying it would be detrimental to the judges and lead to a backlog of court cases.

"We do not see the link between reducing the judges’ retirement age and the elimination of corruption. Wrongdoers should be held accountable using monitoring mechanisms mentioned in the law," the statement read.

The Salafi Dawah also said investments would only flow into a country where the judiciary enjoys a good reputation and stability.

The liberal opposition Dostour Party also rejected calls for protests Friday outside the prosecutor general’s office, warning participants against “dragging the country into political controversy about the judiciary.”

Dostour “rejects fabricated arguments attempting to damage the independence of the judiciary and to infiltrate it for the favor of a specific political party,” the party’s statement read.

The party, which is led by Mohamed ElBaradei, also said the Egyptian people and all national and revolutionary powers have long called for reforming the judicial system as an integral part of achieving the goals of the revolution. Any real reform effort has to begin with the removal of the prosecutor general from office and the appointment of a new, independent official nominated by the judiciary, Dostour said.

The moderate Islamist Wasat Party called on various groups and revolutionary forces to take part in the protest to defend the revolution and face what it described as “the counter-revolution.”

A party statement cited the Mubarak release decision and acquittals of allegedly corrupt officials as evidence of the counter-revolution. 

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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