Fatwa used to protect police?

A rather convenient fatwa:
CAIRO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Egypt's highest authority on Islamic law said on Thursday that drivers cannot be blamed for killing people who stand in front of their vehicles, just days after a police van ran over a woman who tried to stop it.

Dar al-Iftaa, the government agency which issues around 1,000 fatwas a day, denies its rulings are influenced by politics but opponents said the statement could have been issued to defuse criticism of the government linked to Sunday's death.

Human rights groups say that in northeast Cairo on Sunday a police minibus ran over Reda Shehata when the driver tried to dislodge her from the front of the vehicle.

She was clinging to the minibus to plead for the release of her sister-in-law, who had just been detained, they said. Police officials said the woman threw herself in front of the vehicle.

"Murder resulting from the intention of the murdered to commit suicide (by) standing in front of cars so that the driver cannot avoid him is not manslaughter," Dar al-Iftaa said in a statement sent to Reuters.

The statement appeared to be a summary of a fatwa issued in response to a question posed in June and posted on the organisation's Web site www.dar-alifta.org, but it was not clear why the organisation had chosen only to publicise it now.

Two officials at the office of the Grand Mufti could not say whether the statement was linked to Sunday's incident, which drew criticism of the Interior Ministry from rights groups.
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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.