By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: A group of judges at the Appeals Court called for an urgent general assembly meeting to decide on sacking the court’s incumbent head, Chancellor Abdel Moez Ibrahim.
The move is a reaction to Ibrahim’s alleged interference in the case against illicit funding of NGOs, where he ordered a travel ban be lifted off the foreign defendants facing trial.
Ibrahim headed the committee that supervised Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, and is part of the committee overseeing the upcoming presidential race.
The general assembly appointed the eldest judge, Chancellor Hassan Abdel Hameed, who will call on the general assembly to sack Ibrahim, his associates and members of the court’s technical office.
Ibrahim is in Mexico attending a conference, which leaves his position vacant.
“According to Article 61 of the Judicial Authority Law, if the head of the court is absent, the oldest judge in the court is appointed instead. Appointing Abdel Hameed is legally sound,” Zakareya Abdel Aziz, head of the Appeals Court in Alexandria and former head of the Judges Club, told Daily News Egypt on Friday.
The assembly’s decision will also be based on Ibrahim’s statement in which he reportedly ceded the authority granted to him by the court’s former general assembly to head the Appeals Court, added Abdel Aziz, a leading figure of the movement calling for the independence of the judiciary.
The urgent general assembly meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, is expected to decide to fire the court’s technical office and Ibrahim’s associates.
According to the official Middle East News Agency (MENA), Abdel Hameed said a copy of the decisions taken by the general assembly will be sent to the Head of Supreme Judicial Council, Chancellor Hossam El-Gheriany, as well as the Minister of Justice.
However, Ibrahim had denied news that he abdicated authority, saying he continues to head the court, MENA reported last Tuesday.
“Even if he denied, the decision to sack him is valid according to Article 61 of the Judicial Authority Law. He left his position to travel and someone has to fill this position and run the affairs of the court,” former judge of Cassation Court Ahmed Mekki, another leading figure in the judiciary independence movement, told DNE.
“This is a clear and simple procedure. If Ibrahim feels it is illegal and wants to remain the head of the court, he has to address the general assembly again which will then vote on whether to bring him back or reject his request,” Mekki added.
Sacking Ibrahim will mean losing his position in the Presidential Election Committee, which he holds in his capacity as head of the Appeals Court.
Judge in the Appeals Court and a candidate for head of the Judges Club, Chancellor Mohamed Refaat Bassiouny, said the general assembly’s decisions must be respected.
Ibrahim “said he will leave his position voluntarily. I think he needs to stick to this position and respect the wishes of the general assembly,” he added.
Bassiouny added that if elected head of the Judges Club, he will ensure that the assembly’s decisions in appointing the heads of courts are respected.
The group of the appeals judges include Judge Waleed El-Shafie, deputy head of Alexandria Appeals Court who was beaten during the 2010 parliamentary elections; as well as Abdel Aziz, Abdel Hameed, and Chancellor Mohamed El-Sehemi, who described the decision to sack Ibrahim as political exclusion.
El-Sehemi told Al-Youm Al-Sabei daily that this is a revolution by the judges to “cleanse” the judiciary and achieve its complete independence from interference of the executive authority, referring to the ruling military council.
Ibrahim’s decision to lift the travel ban on foreign defendants in the NGOs case was slammed by the judiciary, lawmakers and politicians, describing it as a flagrant threat to the independence of the judiciary.