May 2, 2005

NOT JUST LIBERATING THE SHI'A:

Some Judges in Egypt Lend Voice to Chorus for Reform (Megan K. Stack, May 2, 2005, LA Times)

The rebellion erupted last month in the sober, stolid quarters of the Alexandria Judges' Club: 1,200 magistrates publicly demanded judicial independence from an all-powerful president, and threatened to refuse to certify fall elections if they didn't get it. [...]

The judges' demand is a symptom of a new, unpredictable energy that has seized Egyptian politics after decades of stagnation — and of the popular discontent snowballing in the region.

"We guess that this is our chance," said Assam Abdel Gabbar, an Alexandria judge who sits on Egypt's court of appeals, "and we don't believe it will come again anytime soon." [...]

The judges acknowledge they are taking advantage of pressure already bearing down on Mubarak's 24-year-old regime. The elections are approaching fast, and U.S. leaders have been unusually critical of Arab dictatorships — including Egypt, a longtime American ally.

"Our main aim from the start was to choose a time when those abroad would hear us," said Hisham Bastawisi, a Cairo judge on the court of appeals. "The West didn't used to listen to us; now they're listening. They used to listen only to governments and to back up dictatorships, but recently they're listening to the people."

President Bush's emphasis on democratization in the Middle East, coupled with elections in Iraq and the popular uprising in Lebanon, have contributed to a sense of unease among the region's dictatorships.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2005 7:27 AM
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