Lawyers continue strike to protest judiciary bill

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CAIRO: Lawyers continued for the fourth day Monday an open-ended strike in protest of a judiciary bill that would toughen penalties against lawyers for contempt of court.

A general assembly at the Lawyers’ Syndicate declared its support for the strike.

“[The Judges] want the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), not the parliament, to discuss their new proposed law. We are objecting against their method and … specifically article 18 that gives the judge the right to punish a lawyer,” said lawyer Ali Maher, who stood outside the syndicate chanting against the judicial system.

With unconfirmed news that the controversial article would be removed from the proposed law drafted by the Judges Club, the lawyers promised to escalate if the bill was ever approved by the military, instead of the yet-to-be-elected parliament.

“The people want to cleanse the judiciary,” chanted the lawyers. “We are the free revolutionaries.”

The General Assembly that took place on Monday morning agreed to hold syndicate elections on Nov. 20.

Earlier in the day, lawyers had marched outside the nearby Judges’ Club. The demonstrators reportedly climbed on top of the cars parked outside.

In response, the Judges’ Club closed its doors for a couple of hours. Justice Mohamed Reda, head of the Cairo Criminal Court, later told the guards to reopen the doors.

“Due to the increase of lawyers’ bullying we suggested that article. It was only a suggestion which was open for discussion. But now we canceled this suggestion; therefore, the lawyers’ [protest] is irrelevant,” Reda told Daily News Egypt.

According to the proposed bill, judges could sentence lawyers to up to five years in prison in cases of insulting the court. The controversial article 18 gives judges the power to detain lawyers inside the courtroom if he deems them disruptive.

Reda explained that the judges wanted to treat lawyers like ordinary citizens in the courtroom.

If the lawyers are objecting to a certain article or the whole system, he continued, “they should not disrespect the law”. He was referring to the protest outside the club.

The Judges’ Club has called for a general assembly on Friday to discuss the current tension with lawyers.

“We have never seen this before. We will discuss our security, the insistence of some of the junior lawyers to disrespect our court sessions,” said Reda, adding that senior lawyers can’t ignore what their junior counterparts have been doing regarding judges.

With judges also on strike, the three courts of Zinhom, Maadi and Helwan, have reportedly shut down.

Judges say they will not report to work until they are provided with protection, citing assaults by lawyers.

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