Egypt’s state media reports that a disciplinary court has ordered 41 judges into compulsory retirement for supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the latest move in a sweeping crackdown on political dissent.
The Disciplinary Council headed by Nabil Zaki, a judge, did not immediately release the reason for its decision on Saturday.
The government has implemented a harsh crackdown on Islamists and secular political opponents since July 2013, when then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.
Reuters news agency reported that 31 of the judges were sent into compulsory retirement for signing a statement condemning Morsi’s removal.
Another 10 were removed from their posts for joining the “Judges for Egypt” group, which supported the Brotherhood even before Morsi’s removal, Reuters reported, citing judicial sources.
Egyptian law prohibits judges from engaging in politics, but critics and human rights groups say the judicial disciplinary court has turned a blind eye to judges who openly support the government of Sisi, who was elected president last year.
The government says the judiciary is independent and it never intervenes in its work.
“The decision is shocking and it is a massacre of the judges,” Ahmed El-Khatib, one of the punished judges, told Reuters. He made no comment about whether he supported the Brotherhood.
The judges have the right to appeal the decision.
Separately, security forces arrested 63 middle-level Brotherhood leaders who face charges of attacking police headquarters and inciting violence, Egypt’s interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Another 13 Brotherhood supporters were arrested on suspicion of possessing arms and ammunition, it added.
The government blacklisted the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in December 2013, and Sisi says it is a threat to national security. The group says it is committed to peaceful activism.