The Egyptian Lawyers Association decided to suspend work and appearing before courts in the country indefinitely, starting Thursday, while calling for an emergency meeting of its Council in protest of the decision to imprison 6 of its members.
On Wednesday, a court in the border Governorate of Marsa Matrouh, to the west, sentenced 6 lawyers to two years in prison with labour and two years on probation, on false charges of assaulting court employees.
On 8 January, an argument broke out between a lawyer and a court employee, and a number of lawyers and employees intervened to resolve it, and the President of the Criminal Court was called upon to help. He ended the situation and dismissed everyone.
However, the incident turned into a fistfight, which ended with the lawyers being imprisoned for 4 days, pending investigations, and the employees were released with a guarantee of their jobs. Within 10 days, the lawyers were tried and the final rulings were issued against them.
Commenting on this, the Association posted a statement on its Facebook page saying, "We have made sure to communicate with all concerned parties as soon as we were informed of the incident in order to deal with it wisely and objectively, based on a comprehensive investigation of the incident, including the collection of verbal and physical evidence, especially reviewing all cameras."
It complained about "an inexplicable insistence and clear intent on imprisoning colleagues in pre-trial detention, despite the absence of justifications for pre-trial detention, and an unjustified haste in referring them to trial without completing the investigation in the correct manner in order to reach the truth and desired justice."
It added, "Despite this, the Association and the subsidiary unions are still exercising the utmost levels of restraint, out of concern for the interest of the colleagues involved in the crisis and their families, and for the interest of the homeland and the country that is witnessing difficult circumstances that cannot tolerate strife."
"In light of the lack of a breakthrough in the crisis to date, the Egyptian Lawyers Association decided to suspend work and attendance before criminal courts and Public Prosecution investigations throughout the Republic as a first step, as of Thursday morning, 19 January, for an indefinite period. All subsidiary unions have committed to implementing this decision," it noted.
The Association also decided – according to the statement – to call for an emergency and joint meeting of with the subsidiary unions on Friday, 20 January, to discuss taking whatever legal measures it deems appropriate regarding the appeal against the ruling issued against the six lawyers, which is scheduled to be considered on 22 January.