The inauguration of President Mohamed Morsi was not the only major change within the branches of government last Saturday. The end of June also marked the retirement date of many of Egypt’s top judges who have reached 70 years of age. Replacements for these judges, many of whom headed important judicial bodies, were appointed and confirmed by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces before Morsi officially became president.
Supreme Constitutional Chairman Justice Farouk Sultan, whom Morsi took the oath of office in front of on Saturday, tops the high profile list of judges leaving office. Sultan, who was also the head of the Presidential Elections Committee and holds the distinction of announcing the results of Egypt’s first democratic elections, will be replaced by his deputy Maher El-Behiary, the man who issued both the dissolution of the People’s Assembly verdict and kept Ahmed Shafiq in the race by ruling the political disenfranchisement law unconstitutional. Sultan was never a member of the SCC before being appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak to head the constitutional court. He headed the South Cairo Criminal Court before being appointed to the SCC in 2009, a disappointment for many SCC judges. His final act as a judge was to have the presidential oath of office administered by him.
Chairman of the Cairo Appeals Court Abdel Moaz Ibrahim will be joining Sultan. Ibrahim headed the electoral committee that organised the parliamentary elections from November 2011 to February 2012. He is credited with overseeing the largest and fairest parliamentary electoral process in Egypt. He soon fell from grace, however, with many judges calling for his suspension and charges levied against him after he was accused of interfering in the foreign NGO case back in February. Ibrahim transferred the case from its original court to another district, where he had personal relationship with judges who took the defendants off of a no-fly list and they immediately left the country.
Hossam El-Gheriany, the Chairman of the Cassation Court and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary has also left office. El-Gheriany was the first head of a judicial body to come from the independent judiciary movement. He was among the first judges to take to the streets in protest of government interference within the justice system in 2006. He will not be out of the limelight, however, as he was recently elected Chairman of the Constituent Assembly tasked with writing Egypt’s new constitution.
Ali Fikri, the Vice President of the State Council and judge in the Supreme Administrative Court, the man who revoked the military’s right to arrest civilians, dissolved the first Constituent Assembly, and postponed the ruling on the second, has also ended his term.
Finally, Ahmed Refaat, head of the Cairo Criminal Court and the man who issued Mubarak with a historic life sentence verdict for failing to protect protesters in the January 25 uprising also joins the list of retiring judges.