Egypt judges secretly questioned over Facebook posts

Egypt judges secretly questioned over Facebook posts
3 min read
06 December, 2015
A number of Egyptian judges have been called for questioning over their Facebook posts after justice minister Ahmed al-Zend ordered the monitoring of the personal social media accounts of judges.
The judges regularly express their political views on social media [Getty]
Egypt's justice ministry has secretly called a number of Egyptian judges for questioning over their Facebook posts, a judicial source told al-Araby al-Jadeed.


The decision to question the judges was made by Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend, who gave orders to form a committee to monitor the personal social media accounts of judges.

According to the source, the judges regularly express their political views on social media, commenting on current events and criticising the country's political management.

No legal measures have been taken against the judges, who remain anonymous. The source refused to mention their names.

In 2011, several judges were called for questioning over "excessive media appearances," after speaking to media outlets without prior permission from the Supreme Judicial Council and criticising the referral of civilians to military trials.

Anti-terror law

     The law allowed five-year prison sentences to be given to anyone convicted of using social media to promote ideas or beliefs that would lead to 'terrorist acts'

In August 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a 54-article anti-terror law that has been widely condemned both locally and internationally as "draconian".

The law allowed five-year prison sentences to be given to anyone convicted of using social media or the Internet to promote ideas or beliefs that would lead to "terrorist acts," or to communicate with terrorist groups, or even to "impede officials."

Less than two weeks later, police in Egypt's Mediterranean city of Alexandria arrested a student and her father for allegedly running an anti-Sisi Facebook page, which also criticised the police, army, and state officials.

The same happened a few days later with an 18-year-old student who was arrested over similar charges.


Crackdown on media

Meanwhile, crackdown on freedom of expression, particularly press freedom, in Egypt has been at an all-time high.

Local press freedom group Journalists Against Torture Observatory (JATO) has documented 97 different violations against journalists in November alone, adding to a total of 499 violations in the first 10 months of 2015.

The violations included preventing journalists from covering news, beatings, arrests, and intimidation.

The latest victim of the crackdown on media professionals was journalist and human rights activist Ismail Alexandrani, who was detained at Hurghada airport last week.

Alexandrani was reportedly accused of "releasing false news aimed at spreading terror" and "joining a banned group".

On Tuesday, his detention was extended by 15 days, pending further investigations, according to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights [ECESR] - where he works as a researcher.

"The arrest of Ismail Alexandrani is deeply disturbing and fits a pattern of Egyptian security agencies arresting people whose writings don't conform to official views," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.

Alexandrani's arrest comes three weeks after Egypt's military intelligence summoned and detained for two days investigative journalist and human rights activist Hossam Bahgat.

The authorities referred Bahgat to military prosecutors for further investigation on charges of "publishing false news" following a story for the independent news website Mada Masr concerning the prosecution of about two dozen military officers for allegedly plotting a coup.

Many other activists and journalists have either been banned from travel or arrested while returning from abroad under the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.