Thursday, March 1, 2012

Intervention from above seems to have influenced Egyptian NGO-trial

 The audience in the courtroom shouted anti-SCAF slogans after the trial was adjourned on Sunday. (Al-Ahram Online)

Many questions remain over the trial in Egypt of 43 NGO workers, 19 of them American, that attracted much attention because of its possible implications for the American -Egyptian relations.
The trial followed raids in December on the IRI, the National Democratic Institute, the International Center for Journalists and Freedom House — all from the United States — as well as on Egyptian and other groups.
 The trial’s first session was held on Sunday with the judges adjourning the case to April 26. But on Tuesday it became known that the three judges in the case withdrew of the case, and the next day the travel ban for the 19 Americans was lifted. 
The Daily News Egypt reported that uneasiness because of outside pressure may have been the reason for the judges to quit. The paper quotes the former head of Cassation Court of Alexandria, Justice Ahmed Mekky, who said that the judges received a call from the head of the Appeals Court, urging them to lift the travel ban imposed on the non-Egyptian defendants in the case. "The [judges] panel may have considered this an intervention," Mekky said, adding that a request of this kind by the Appeals Court may have put the judges in a tough spot.
The case had strained US-Egypt ties with Clinton and US lawmakers warning the military authorities in power since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, that $1.3 billion in annual aid is at stake. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told two Senate panels on Tuesday that the United States and Egypt are "in very intensive discussions about finding a solution."So, was it intervention from above(i.e. SCAF) in order to contain the damage already done by accusations from media and several authorities involved in the case that the NGO meant foreign interference aiming at dividing the country? And does this mean that it is that easy to influence the judicial system in Egypt, something the Egyptians used to trust, even during the Mubarak era, as in general being above the parties? Enough to worry about, it seems.     

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