Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Lawyers on strike

Lawyers across the country staged a one-day strike to protest against a jail sentence handed down to eight colleagues

Lawyers on strike
Lawyers on strike

A showdown between lawyers and judges escalated on Saturday 18 March when lawyers boycotted criminal court trials nationwide following the imprisonment of eight lawyers in Minya governorate charged with insulting the judicial system.

Lawyers absconded from criminal courts in most major cities, leaving only a handful to attend urgent sessions after notifying the Lawyers Syndicate office in their city. Consequently, many criminal courts across the country were forced to postpone work.

“They went on strike for only one day to affect people who go to courts and seek justice. We work for them, however, further escalation is on the table until we find a way out of this crisis,” said Khaled Abu Greisha, secretary-general of the Lawyers Syndicate.

However, the strike in the city of Matay in Minya was on up until Al-Ahram Weekly went to press.

Last week, Minya Criminal Court sentenced seven lawyers to five years in prison and one to three years for blocking access to a public facility, preventing a judge from carrying out his duty, and insulting the judiciary in a case that dates back to protests by defendants outside a local court in March 2013.

The 2013 protest came after what the syndicate said was a judge’s handing down of a harsh sentence without hearing the defence.

The lawyers were tried and sentenced by the criminal court even though the judge who filed the initial complaint against them withdrew his motion. Shortly following the sentence, the syndicate decided to boycott court sessions in all of Minya’s criminal courts.

After the 16 March verdict, the syndicate’s chairman Sameh Ashour announced the board had decided to go on strike for one day. Ashour said steps were also being taken to appeal Minya’s verdict and suspend its implementation.

Last week, dozens of lawyers staged a three-day strike in Gharbiya governorate in front of the second circuit Mahalla Criminal Court in protest over what they described as harsh verdicts against their clients and a lack of opportunity to properly present a defence in court.

A number of lawyers in the coastal city of Marsa Matrouh staged a sit-in inside a court building over what they said was an assault on one of the lawyers by an employee of the prosecution-general.

“I think the one-day strike by the lawyers sent a strong message on this harsh verdict against our colleagues in Minya, however, we are working to try all legal options to stop the implementation of the court ruling before the crisis worsens,” said Abdel-Gawad Ahmed, head of the Lawyers Syndicate Freedoms Committee and a board member.

Ahmed added that the syndicate board will discuss further escalatory measures at a meeting on 23 March. They may include extending the strike to civil and misdemeanor courts and refusing to pay court fees, according to Abdel-Gawad.

“Lawyers face this kind of harshness every day and everywhere,” he said. “There should be a new system that includes a set of rules for relations between lawyers and judges on the basis of respect.”

Several parliament members have called on Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal to mediate between the Lawyers Syndicate and judges. MP Khaled Abdel-Aziz said he asked Abdel-Aal to arrange a meeting between the syndicate chairman and the minister of justice to discuss how to ease the tension.

Abdel-Aziz said there were different ways to legally stop the verdict’s implementation, including contesting the verdict at the Court of Cassation or requesting the prosecutor-general to stop its enactment.

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