CAIRO: A complaint was filed with the prosecution against Minister of Justice Mahfouz Saber over “discriminatory remarks;” social media users have called for sacking him after he said children of cleaners may not be judges.
“A Judge should be from an appropriate milieu that is suitable for such a job, with my due respect to the cleaner’s son and those who below or above [their position,”] Saber, 70, told Ten channel Sunday.
“Thanks goes to the cleaner who raised his son to get a university degree (from the Faculty of Law,) many, many thanks to him, but if his son worked in the judiciary, he would suffer from many things, psychological depression, etc. He would be able to continue,” Saber said.
“A judge should come from a respectable milieu, respectable financially and morally,” he added.
Lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz filed the complaint, accusing Saber of making “discriminatory remarks” and insulting a segment of the society, according to Youm7.
Saber’s remarks sparked anger on social media, as users accused him of “inciting discrimination” and underestimating the low-income working class.
A trending hashtag was created on Twitter and Facebook demanding the Minister be fired (#اقيلوا_وزير_العدل ).
Pictures venerating garbage collectors and their role in the society have been circulating on Egypt’s social media; a Twitter user circulated a photo of statues for public cleaners in Iraq to pay respects to their role.
Among circulated pictures is a screenshot of an obituary column published in state-owned Ahram newspaper in the name of former Attorney-General Abdel Mageed Mahmoud, offering condolences to five siblings, all judges or prosecutors, for the passing of their father, who was also a judge.
People retweeting the screenshot criticized the fact that the entire family held judicial positions, asking if a judicial post may only be inherited.
The obituary dates back to October 31, 2012 in page 26 of issue No. 45985. In the obituary, Mahmoud, who was in office at the time, and public prosecutors paid their respects to late Judge Ashraf Zayed al-Lemsawy.
Other social media users posted a story that surfaced in January 2015 about a judge referred to investigations over “indecent photos.”
“The son of a garbage collector cannot be a judge because he was raised to have good manners. To be a judge in Egypt is a shameful thing,” tweeted Mahmoud Radwan.
“Cleansing the judiciary would be the job of a garbage collector’s son,” tweeted Al-Laqany.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country,” Former Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter, adding “when a country lacks the concept of justice, nothing remains.”
Judiciary expert Nour Farahat posted on his Facebook page that “inciting discrimination is a crime that does not fall within the statute of limitation.”
Former Egyptian national football goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir asked Saber to apologize for his remarks, saying that late president Anwar Sadat worked as manual worker in construction and building.
Article 53 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that all citizens are equal before the law.
“Discrimination and inciting hatred is a crime punishable by law. The state is committed to take the necessary actions to eliminate all kinds of discrimination. The law organizes the establishment of an independent commission for this reason,” the article says.
Shehata Megadis, head of the Syndicate of Zabaleen, Arabic for garbage people, told Youm7 “a garbage collector’s son is better than [the minister’s.] Former Brazilian President (Luiz Inácio da Silva) worked as a shoeshine boy,” adding that Saber’s remarks contradict the constitution.
In October 2014, more than 135 Faculty of Law graduates were excluded from general prosecution candidates because their parents had no university degrees, according to several local newspapers. However, head of Asyut’s Judges Club Refaat el-Saeed denied the reported reasoning.
Appointing Judges’ family members
The appointment of Judges’ family members, especially their children, in judicial posts is a norm in Egypt.
In a confrontational remark, Judges’ Club chairperson Ahmed al-Zind said “appointing judges’ sons or daughters in judicial positions will not stop,” Al-Ahram reported March 9, 2012.
On July 17, 2014, Al-shorouk newspaper reported that 35 percent of the latest law graduates appointed in the justice system were judges’ children.