CAIRO: Farmers from the village of Behout in the Delta province of Daqahleya, under threat of eviction, have alleged that a court verdict was forged by individuals who are claiming rights to their land.
On Sunday afternoon, some of the 28 families from Behout, gathered outside the public prosecution office in Cairo.
One farmer held up a placard reading, “Look, Gamal [Abdel Nasser] you distributed the land…How can Hosni Mubarak sell it?
Farmers told reporters that they are the victims of an illegal attempt to take over land which was given to them under the Agricultural Reform Law after the 1952 revolution.
“Land was distributed to these farmers under the Agricultural Reform Law in 1962 and 1963. Each family took between two and five feddans, lawyer Mohamed Refaat, who is representing the farmers, explained.
“The state provided full compensation to landowners whose land was sequestered. These farmers became the legal owners of the land after paying installments on it, and according to the appropriation system.
“However they subsequently discovered that the public prosecution office has issued a decision granting the heirs of Abdel Meguid El-Badrawy Ashour title to the land given to [the farmers in the 1960s].
The farmers appealed the decision, and the Mansoura Court ruled in their favor on Dec. 28, 2008.
According to Refaat the individuals seeking ownership of the land “resorted to forging court verdicts.
He says that they have a document according to which the Mansoura Appeals Court overturned the verdict of Dec. 28, 2008 and reinstated the public prosecution office decision.
“The ruling awards the entire land to one individual, Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Rahman who appealed the verdict without our ever being informed of such. The first court session was on Feb. 10, 2009, Refaat said.
“On Feb. 17 the appeals court overturned the verdict issued in favor of the farmers and reinstated the public prosecution office’s decision evicting them from the land. We knew nothing about the court session scheduled for Feb. 17 2009.
Refaat listed what he says proves that the farmers have legal ownership of the land.
“Firstly, these people bought the land from the General Agricultural Reform Authority – from a governmental body, not from someone who will swindle them. Secondly, the price of the land was paid in full through installments paid over 40 years, he explained.
“Thirdly, landowners were compensated in the 1960s and received the equivilent value of their land. Fourthly, how can the public prosecution office order that a farmer be thrown off his land when he owns this land and has been on it for more than 40 years?
The lawyer told reporters that he is demanding a “transparent investigation into the forgery of this court verdict. If such an investigation is carried out the verdict s invalidity will be established.
Karama party MP Hamdeen Sabbahy was among the delegation which presented the farmers’ demands to the public prosecution office.
He condemned the “injustice suffered by Egyptian farmers.
“This case is another installment in the injustice suffered by Egypt’s farmers who own land under the Agricultural Reform Law, and have been settled on it since the 1960s, but who nonetheless face unjust court verdicts evicting them from their land, Sabbahy told reporters.
“These verdicts are issued in the interests of feudalists such as El-Badrawy Ashour and others who, without any genuine basis, claim that they own this land which has been cultivated by these farmers for years and which is their only source of income.