Al-Ahram Weekly Online   20 - 26 November 2008
Issue No. 923
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Signatures sought

Internal disputes have been escalating at the Alexandria Judges Club, Mona El-Nahhas reports

Alarmed by the current tense atmosphere at the Alexandria Judges Club, a number of members are pressing for an emergency general assembly. The aim, they say, is to settle a number of issues which have recently stirred up disputes among members. Those mainly belonging to the group of reformist judges are now in the process of collecting their colleagues' signatures.

According to prominent club judges, if the signatures of at least 200 members can be collected (the figure constitutes one-quarter of the total number of Alexandria Judges Club members) they would then head either to the chief justice of the Alexandria Appeals Court or the chairman of the Alexandria Judges Club to get approval to hold the general assembly.

"If two weeks pass without a meeting of the emergency general assembly, members will have the right to hold it a week later by the rule of law," reformist judge Ahmed Mekki told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that such measures are in line with the club's internal statutes.

Since elections in January this year, the club has become embroiled in endless internal disputes, dividing board members into two camps. One is led by supporters of former club chairman and reform leader judge Mahmoud El-Khodeiri who lost his seat during the elections while the other supports the current chairman of the club, judge Ismail El-Basyouni, widely rumoured to enjoy government backing.

In the elections, each of the two camps managed to seize half of the 14 seats of the club's board.

Last month the struggle between the two groups reached its climax with frequent clashes between El-Khodeiri and El-Basyouni's camps being reported.

Three weeks ago, El-Basyouni filed a complaint to the prosecution against club board members belonging to El-Khodeiri's camp accusing them of breaking into and damaging his office in his absence.

Judge Adel Sherbash, a board member belonging to El-Khodeiri's camp, was recently slapped with a decree passed by El-Basyouni dismissing him from his position. The decree cited Sherbash's absence from half of all board meetings held this year.

The club's internal statutes say any board member who does not attend at least half of its meetings held over a year should have his membership cancelled. Sherbash complained that he was not informed of the decree. He also argued that 2008 had not yet ended.

According to Mekki, the aim behind ousting Sherbash was clear. "El-Basyouni wanted to guarantee that his group would constitute a majority of the club's board," Mekki said.

El-Basyouni was not available for comment.

The assembly is also expected to decide who should have the 14th board seat which became vacant after its occupant travelled abroad. While board members from the reformist group suggested judge Mohamed El-Shafie, El-Basyouni insisted that judge Mohamedi Magour deserved it more than anyone else.

El-Basyouni argued that his nominee received enough votes in the club's elections to allow him to occupy the seat. Board members of the other camp argued the same.

Magour was invited by El-Basyouni and his group to attend the board meeting but reformist judges objected. Ballot boxes of the elections were supposed to have been opened, however, the boxes were not sealed and sorting out lists were not signed, forcing a large number of judges to call for new club polls. They argued that previous polls were null and void.

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