By Hassan Abd Rabo and Ahmed Farhat
During a previous interview with Daily News Egypt, Minister of Justice Mahfouz Saber said that the acquittal of former president Hosni Mubarak and his associates would not prevent the ministry from recovering money.
In a second interview with Daily News Egypt, Saber explains that the process of recovering the funds is still ongoing, and that prosecutors have the right to appeal the verdict, but that the notion of a revolutionary verdict is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
After the Mubarak acquittal, what will happen in terms of recovering the money?
We must distinguish between crimes for which Mubarak was tried and acquitted, and the process of recovering the money. Mubarak was tried [and the charges were dismissed] for murdering protesters and corruption. Mubarak’s acquittal will not stop us from recovering illegally and unjustly seized money, as long as the conditions are met.
Do you believe that Mubarak’s acquittal may lead to amendments in the judicial authority law?
The judicial law is critical, and there must be a parliament before any amendments are made in accordance with the constitution. Any changes made should be necessary ones.
I wonder, can the whole law be amended just because a group of people said that the judiciary is politicised? A judge made a verdict in the past that stated Mubarak was a convict, and now a different judge is stating that he is innocent and gave reasons for this. Judges are not politicised: verdicts and prosecutors exist to prove that.
Do prosecutors have the right to appeal?
Of course, as they serve as representatives of society. They will present the reasons for the appeal to the Court of Cassation, which will examine both these reasons and the perspectives of both parties, and then make a verdict.
What is your opinion on calls for revolutionary trials for Mubarak?
Sure, but that should have been done since the very beginning. Everyone agreed on fair adjudication in order to ensure transparency. If they want revolutionary trials, this could be done, but where would the constitution be in that case? And how can someone be tried in a revolutionary court in light of democracy, freedom, human rights and stability?
The constitutional declaration said that those who are acquitted can be re-tried with new evidence for the same case, while the law and constitution say that individuals who are tried once may not be tried in the same case again so long all methods for appeal were exhausted. We have the constitution, democracy, and a separation of powers. We can’t operate under the philosophy of “chasing one person to the ends of the earth”.
What happened during your meeting with President Al-Sisi in the wake of the Mubarak acquittal?
The president has the right to look into sentences and not take a decision himself; law and religion say that deliberation is best. The president brought together experts, be they be myself or transitional justice minister Ibrahim El-Heneidi, and said that he does comment on judicial rulings that are made.
He also requested the compensation of the families of martyrs and victims who have not been
compensated, and gave instructions to the prime minister to implement the chief justice’s recommendation to make verdicts more transparent.
During the cabinet meeting the next day, we discussed means to compensate martyrs and their families, as well as a legislative amendment proposed by the ministry to the third paragraph of Criminal Law Article 15. The amendment would include the crimes of bribery, stealing, and embezzling public funds on the grounds that senior government employees have authority and influence over the people they deal with.
What is the status of this legislation?
This legislation was presented to the cabinet and approved, and was then sent to the State Council so that its legal formulation could be adjusted. It will be issued soon by the President.
What are the most important pieces of legislation that will soon be approved?
The investment law, considering that economic success is what will drive state progress forward. We are making efforts in this regard now. Other laws include personal status for non-Muslims, and the law regarding terrorist entities and trials.
What is meant by terrorist entities?
The phrase refers to the participation of a group of people in forming entities that are designed to inflict chaos upon the state without committing crimes themselves. They receive funding from suspicious sources both at home and abroad, and this law is only a draft at present.
Will this law have an effect on jihadi groups and ISIS?
The name does not matter so long as the purpose of its formation is to harm Egypt and terrorise the state. Egypt will consider a group a terrorist entity so long as there is evidence of such, and we as a country with rule of law and stability will not prosecute people for no reason.
As head of the dispute resolution committee at the Ministry of Investment, can you tell us what has been resolved in terms of investor disputes?
Following its formation by the prime minister, the committee held six sessions, in which it was able to resolve around 120 cases. We meet twice a month and a number of company disputes have been discussed.
Are you for or against the principle of reconciliation with Mubarak regime businessmen?
Of course we are with the principle of reconciling with Mubarak’s businessmen, based on the fact that reconciliation has a financial benefit for the government.
In other words, if the reconciliation request meets the conditions while investigations are ongoing with the businessman by the prosecution, or the anti-graft or administrative bodies, the individual who submitted the request will be required to pay the sum attributed to him during the investigation plus half. The case will then be dropped.
During a lawsuit or trial, the individual will be obliged to pay the amount the defendant is accused of seizing or a similar amount, while reconciliation after a verdict is made he will have to refund the amount. He will be exempt from imprisonment in this case.
The legislative amendment was approved by the cabinet and is being reviewed by the State Council. It will be issued this week and is it expected that this amendment will contribute to ending a lot of unresolved disputes once it is put into effect.
Have businessmen applied for reconciliation?
Before the law was issued, while it was being prepared, Hussein Salem’s lawyer applied for reconciliation. We requested a power of attorney from Hussein Salem in order for reconciliation to take place, but it never manifested, and I suspect he is waiting for the law to be passed.
I feel that it is in the interest of any businessman from Egypt with investments in Egypt to reconcile, especially since Egypt is on the cusp of a very important phase for investments. It is better for businessmen to reconcile because they will face imprisonment and fines for the amounts unjustly acquired.
What happened with regards to the law demarcating electoral constituencies?
The law will be presented to the president this week following approval. Already 231 constituencies for the individual lists and 120 for the lists have been approved, and candidates will be distributed based on the voter population of each constituency. We are working to complete the third constitutional entitlement prior to Egypt’s economic summit in March in order to send a strong message to investors that Egypt is a country with firm laws and institutions and no infringement on authorities.
Will there be a quota for women in the next election?
There will not be a quota, but the law and constitution will be applied, which stipulates percentages for women, youth, Christians, and the disabled. Therefore the electoral lists will be closed until representation is present for each of these categories, because the allocation of quotas may be unconstitutional.
Many European countries have condemned the application of the death penalty as a human rights violation. What do you think?
I met with many foreign ambassadors and we discussed the timing of when their countries ended the death penalty, beginning in 1965. This means that before this time, the death penalty was applied, and this evidences that the punishment is not an Egyptian invention. There are four world powers that still use the death penalty, the US, India, China, and Japan, and the principles of Islamic Sharia and Christianity require that punishment.