Egypt’s Minister of Justice Ahmed Al-Zind issued a special decree for two judges to hold court sessions for trials assigned to them at the Police Academy premises in New Cairo.
The decree addressed Judges Nagy Shehata and Shereen Fahmy, who preside over a number of high-profile trials. The two judges also head two of six special judiciary circuits dedicated to terrorism and violent crimes, formed in December 2013.
The secretary of Egypt’s judges club, the Judges’ General Association, Mahmoud El-Sherif, told Daily News Egypt on Wednesday that the decision stemmed from a demand from the head of the Cassation Court, which El-Zind agreed to.
The minister’s decision is to give more security to trials featuring almost all of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders and a large number of political activists and journalists standing before the two judges in different cases, and whom the judges sentenced to death and life imprisonment in other cases.
In May, hours after a preliminary death sentence was handed to former president Mohamed Morsi by Fahmy, three judges were shot dead on the Al-Arish-Rafah international road. The militant attack left four dead, including a driver, with another judge injured in the attack.
“Islamic State”-affiliates in Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack, later showing video footage of the assassination. The video went viral through social media networks under the name of “Extermination of Judges”.
“State of Sinai” sought to justify the targeting of the judges in the newly released footage, as “they betrayed God’s covenant”, referring to the release of former president Hosni Mubarak.
The footage also showed photos of renowned Egyptian judges, including Shehata, Mohamed Abdelwahab Khafagy, Ahmed Sabry Youssef and Hassan Farid, who are currently ruling or have ruled on controversial cases.
However, the first-of-its-kind decree stirred fears by lawyers who face obstacles attending court sessions in “extraordinary“ courts that are held in places such as the Police Academy or the Police Institute in the Tora prison premises in south Cairo.
Lawyer Ahmed Mefreh told Daily News Egypt the decision will put further obstacles against lawyers, media, the defendants themselves and their relatives. The courts will be held in an institution that falls under the authority of a security agency, rather than the independent judiciary.
“Defendants will be forced to attend court sessions which don’t admit their legality, the defence [lawyers] will be humiliated through the deployment of thugs outside the court to assault them,” Mefreh said.
Media representatives often find it hard to cover court sessions that are held in military premises, as instructions from the security agencies that administrate the premises overpower, and are sometimes supported by, courts’ orders regarding the attendance of a session.