Judge in controversial coal case steps down
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The judge presiding over a case filed against the use of coal, specifically to power the cement industry, stepped down on Sunday, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).

Hassouna Tawfik stepped down citing “embarrassment,” following three court sessions looking into the case, according to a statement issued by ECESR.

The ECESR said it is skeptical of the decision, raising concerns that the court came under pressure that ultimately led Tawfik to step down, right before he was meant to look into the appeal and issue a verdict.

On Saturday, the same judge had recused himself from the case of the film “Halawet Roh,” starring Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe, which was banned by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb last April.

Tawfik also cited “embarrassment” as he stepped down from the case filed by the film’s producer, Mohamed al-Sobky, in response to the prime minister’s decision.

Last April, the Cabinet approved the use of coal for energy generation in Egypt, as part of the government’s attempt to solve the country’s energy crisis and deliver on its goals of adopting an energy mix that will ensure the country’s future energy security.

Environmental and human rights activists have launched a campaign to maintain Egypt’s ban on coal, arguing that the long-term negative effects of coal would outweigh any advantages that might be gained by bringing the cheap but highly polluting fuel into the country.

Khaled Ali, a labor rights lawyer with ECESR and candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, filed the lawsuit against the prime minister and the ministers of industry, electricity, environment and petroleum. Ali is leading the case with two other lawyers, representing a Helwan resident who lives near a cement plant and whose health and surrounding environment are likely to be affected by the factory’s use of coal.

ECESR presented all the negative effects they claim will result from the decision and presented alternatives for the use of coal. The center said it expected the court to issue a verdict in the coming session, which was slated for Sunday.

The center maintained that its fight against the decision to use coal and other pollutants is ongoing, along with its campaign with other civil society organizations and environment experts and doctors, despite all the pressures.

It called on the administrative court to prioritize Egyptians’ best interests and make the right decision against “short-sighted policies” that ignore long-term effects.   

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