Eight Questions on 'Purging' Of Egypt's Judiciary

Analysis, posted 04.25.2013, from Egypt, in:
Eight Questions on 'Purging' Of Egypt's Judiciary (Photo: Reuters)

A popular narrative asserts that in 1969, still feeling the sting of the 1967 defeat, Gamal Abdel Nasser sought to impose tighter control over the state, including the ushering in of a more politically aligned and allied judiciary. Much of the judiciary defied his wish, preferring instead that judges stay out of politics and out of the Socialist Arab Union, the one and only political party at the time. Nasser, under the influence of his security apparatus and loyalists in the judiciary, allegedly would not have it.

Reports by Nasser's infamous "vanguard organization," a secret association of regime-sympathizing cadres belonging to the Socialist Arab Union, is said to have suggested to the president that a significant portion of the judicial leadership hailed from the days of the monarchy and held values different from the ideology of the “revolution.” The reports further suggested that there were alternatively many in the judiciary who supported Nasser's vision of it. Those who opposed that vision, on the other hand, were instruments of the “counter-revolution.”

Nasser eventually issued decrees reshuffling the judicial branch and laws, leading to the dismissal of 189 specific judges from their positions. These events later became known as the “massacre of the judiciary.” Nasser’s supporters, however, called it the “purging of the judiciary" and often have a more sympathetic reading of the events.

Fast forward to 2013. Two weeks ago, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida reported a statement by former Muslim Brotherhood guide Mehdi Akef claiming that 3,500 judges would soon be dismissed by parliament. The story created a firestorm, prompting Akef to deny making the statement and the paper to release an audio recording of it that sounded very much like Akef.

Akef’s rather dubious denial was not aided when the Brotherhood decided to take to the streets on Friday, April 19, to “purge the judiciary” in a protest boycotted by of other leading Islamist groups and emphatically denounced by the opposition. The protesters claimed the judiciary was infested with judges who had risen to power under the former regime and remained sympathetic to it. These judges were allegedly aiding the so-called counter-revolution, determined to fight against revolutionary gains.


By Bassem Sabry

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