Dissident judges questioned over voting fraud

I have just received a message saying that four Egyptian judges, including the noted judges Hesham Bastawissi and Ahmed Mekky, were taken in for police questioning this evening, apparently because they had accused other judges of taking part in election fraud during the parliamentary elections.

As many readers will remember, it became apparent during the parliamentary elections that there was massive fraud in some locales. Some judge courageously stepped out to denounce this, implicating some of their colleagues (or in most cases, probably public prosecutors who were much more beholden to the state). This is all taking place in the background of a new judicial independence bill (presented by the Muslim Brotherhood, apparently) being discussed in parliament, the landslide reelection of Zakariya Abdel Aziz's "rebel faction" at the Judge's Club, and signs that the regime is back to its old tricks (did it ever stop, one might ask?)

This Al Ahram Weekly story shows how much the judges achieved in 2005, and contains this prophetic Bastawessi quote:

"The state wants to silence us. Judges who reveal the truth will be prosecuted or fired."
Now, if this turns out to be what it looks like -- an attempt to intimidate and punish the most respectable opponents of the regime and make them pay for their actions in 2005 -- a big deal should be made out of this. Readers in influential places and the media, take note. Egyptian rights groups are now working on it and should have a statement tomorrow. And Baheyya, this is your turf!
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.