Egypt judges denied HRW meeting

A group of Egyptian judges that has been pushing for more judicial independence, says it has cancelled a meeting with a visiting Human Rights Watch delegation because of government pressure.

    Egypt's judges want more judicial independence

    The board of the Judges' Club, whose members have openly criticised abuses in last year's parliamentary elections, had been due to meet the rights group on Wednesday.

    Zakaria Abdel Aziz, the Judges' Club president, said Mahmoud Aboul Leil, the justice minister, had told him the government did not want the meeting to take place.

    "The justice minister stated the government's desire that this meeting not take place," Abdel Aziz said.

    HRW accused the Egyptian government of seeking to discredit it and prevent it from meeting the country's judges.

    Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for the group's Middle East and North Africa division, described the pressure on the Judges' Club as "part of a campaign to harass and intimidate the one independent voice in the country for fear of what they might say to us".

    A government spokesman had no comment.

    Judges close to the government published a statement in the state-owned Al-Gomhuria newspaper on Sunday, condemning the Judges' Club meeting with HRW, which they described as "American on the outside and Zionist on the inside".

    "Do you want human rights in the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib style or human rights the Zionist way in Palestine?" their statement said.

    HRW's regional spokesman Fadi al-Qadi denied the organisation was soft on the US and Israeli governments, saying: "I call on all those who accuse us of being Zionist to read our published reports on human rights violations against Palestinians and those detained in Guantanamo."


    Demanding reforms


    The Judges' Club has spearheaded a campaign for reform across the past year, and demanded more independence for the judiciary.

    At a meeting in March, it stood by four colleagues summoned for questioning about their comments on violations during last year's elections, and voted against any concessions to the government on a draft law reorganising the judiciary.

    In the elections, the ruling party maintained its large parliamentary majority.

    The HRW delegation is due to meet Ahmed Nazif, the Egyptian prime minister, Osama al-Baz, President Hosni Mubarak's adviser, and Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general,  on Thursday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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