Born in 1928, the son of a landowning pasha who was the last Prime Minister of Egypt before the 1952 coup, Hilaly, a.k.a. Comrade Beshir, gave up his wealth and land, living instead a poor humble life, dedicating his career to defending peasants, workers, and the poor in Egypt and the Arab World. After helping revive the Egyptian Communist Party in 1975, Hilaly led a split in the late 1980s, cofounding with Darwish, the People's Socialist Party.
Hilaly headed the legal defense team during the Revolutionary Socialists' trial in 2004. Here's his opening statement in court.
Hilaly's funeral will take place tomorrow Monday noon, in front of 3omar Makram mosque in Tahrir Sq. His family and friends will mourn his death and receive condolences, Tuesday evening, at el-Hamdiya el-Shazliya mosque in Giza.
The first time I was ever detained by State Security police was back in October 2000, where I spent four days in Lazoughli, part of a crackdown on leftist students active in the intifada solidarity movement. My mother, horrified and not knowing what to do, rushed looking for Hilaly's phone number to get his help. Hilaly went twice to the State Security prosecutor's office in Heliopolis, where I was being interviewed, but was told I wasn't inside, and he couldn't see me. Funny enough, I ended up then with a Muslim Brotherhood legal defense team, as two MB lawyers happened to be in the Heliopolis SS prosecutor's building attending with their group's detainees. They volunteered to help, as I was still handcuffed--after a long night of severe beatings and sleep deprivation by my interrogators back in Lazoughli--yelling in the corridor, "I need a lawyer! I need a lawyer!" Following my release, I always kept Hilaly's phone number in my wallet, just in case I fell into trouble again.
I saw Hilaly in conferences at the Lawyers' Syndicate several times, but I only spoke with him once in my life, during one of Kamal Khalil's Imbaba parliamentary campaign rallies in November 2005. Hilaly was among Kamal's leading supporters in his campaign, and insisted despite his fragile health on taking the effort to give a speech at Kamal's final rally. We hardly had a conversation, we just exchanged few words of greetings, as I waited for him to give his speech.
Ahmad Nabil el-Hilaly was a great man... He will be missed...
-Baheyya wrote a fantastic well-detailed obituary, worth checking out.
-Wael 3abass posted a video and photos of Hilaly's funeral.