CAIRO: A rights group representing families from the threatened island of El-Qorsaya has questioned the neutrality of the court hearing the case.
Residents of El-Qorsaya received eviction notices last year, when bulldozers under army protection began work on one side of the island.
Islanders suspect that their homes will make way for a tourist complex or golf course and have responded by challenging the eviction order in a case against four government bodies including the Prime Minister and the governor of Giza.
Hearings in the case began last Sunday, Jan. 13. The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR) alleges that the 2nd District Administrative Court, which heard the case, demonstrated clear bias against the islanders.
According to ECHR’s statement, court proceedings progressed as usual until the court usher announced the El-Qorsaya case. When ECHR lawyer and some of the islanders assembled before the bench, presiding Judge Mohamed Qashda announced that the court session was recessed.
He then resigned to his inner chambers for 20 minutes. When he re-emerged and re-opened the session, the ECHR lawyer and El-Qorsaya residents were surrounded by policemen and all but the lawyer were ordered by the judge to return to their seats.
Judge Qashda also allegedly ordered that a press photographer surrender the film in his camera – even though he had not yet taken any pictures – saying, according to the statement, “We don’t want anything to do with newspapers and pictures and that sort of thing.
Proceedings were again halted when it was discovered that the court usher failed to notify two of the defendants of the case against them despite the fact that the case has been pending for several months.
The court refused to hear the plaintiffs’ statements, consenting only to receive documents from them.
It was initially decided that the next hearing would be scheduled for Feb. 23, but El-Qorsaya residents protested, saying that was too long to wait given the critical importance of the eventual verdict. The court agreed to move the next hearing up to Feb. 3.
In its statement, ECHR concludes by stating, “We do not know the reason behind the 2nd District’s biased and arbitrary attitude towards El-Qorsaya islanders, which conflicts with the probity, justice and neutrality of the Administrative Court judiciary.
Earlier this month, the government-controlled Al-Ahram newspaper announced that a People’s Assembly committee had decided to scrap the construction plans for El-Qorsaya.
El-Qorsaya residents expressed their suspicions about the report and continued the media campaign to save the island, which they launched last year.