CAIRO: Hundreds of angry lawyers staged a demonstration outside the Lawyers Syndicate Thursday, protesting against the lawyers’ reform law initiative.
Members of the syndicate are also threatening to hold a second demonstration this Monday as well as sleeping inside the syndicate until Tuesday, the day in which the prospective laws will be formally discussed at the People’s Assembly. They then plan to make their way to a protest outside the People’s Assembly.
The reforms to the lawyers’ law were initially presented to the People’s Assembly by a group of National Democratic Party (NDP) politicians. They include a proposition to cancel this year’s syndicate elections and allow the current president, Sameh Ashour, to keep his position for another year, aided by a choice of the governorates’ syndicate heads.
The current syndicate head Ashour, is coming to the end of the second term of a four-year presidency and is due to set the date of the next elections in the coming months.
However, a recent administrative court ruling has delayed the elections until next Ramadan. Critics of the proposed laws claim this will give politicians time to push through the laws before the end of the parliamentary term. Sources told Daily News Egypt that Ashour attended meetings with the
PA’s Suggestions and Complaints Committee two weeks ago, where he also met the Speaker of the PA and assented to the proposed reforms.
“This potentially presents a real crisis for the lawyers syndicate, Osama Gado, lawyer and Muslim Brotherhood member told Daily News Egypt.
“We were shocked when NDP members presented this new initiative, which seeks to change the laws set in 1983, which stipulate that professional syndicate elections must run every four years in a democratic fashion.
It is thought among lawyers that the prevalence of Muslim Brotherhood membership in lawyers’ circles has led the government to crack down on elections. Although the current president Ashour, is a former Nasserist, out of 25 members of the syndicate board, 15 are Muslim Brotherhood members and more than four are Brotherhood sympathizers.
“In my opinion, this is another attempt by the government to stifle citizens’ freedoms, Gado continued. “Controlling the Lawyers’ Syndicate, whose members’ high profile role in protecting human rights and campaigning on national issues, is a step in this direction.
“They lack the means from which to seize control internally, as mainly lawyers sympathize with opposition parties, so they are using their majority in the PA to push through a new law that will enable them to control the syndicate before the current parliamentary term is out.
Muslim Brotherhood syndicate members this week presented an alternative set of proposals to the PA in an attempt to combat that of NDP members. The reforms put forward a rise in lawyers’ pensions and a nomination for limited immunity.
The Lawyers’ Syndicate has been the site of many opposition activities in recent months, and has taken a stand on a number of political issues. It was seen as the ‘the last bastion of freedom’ for the April 6 protesters, and played host to an anti-normalization with Israel conference on the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.
“Now we are just waiting to see what will happen. We were supposed to see the results of the proposed sets of laws. However, we still haven’t heard anything. Anything could happen. The board could be dissolved, leaving us at a crisis similar to that of 1995, when the rights of lawyers were completely paralyzed, said Gado.