Intimate photos of judge spark ethical debate among activists

Leaked photos portraying a judge’s night life stirred heated debate in the Egyptian human rights community about the ethics of using personal information to bring down political enemies.

This week, compromising photos of State Council Judge Naser Abdel Rahman were widely circulated on social media, showing Abdel Rahman interacting with women in night clubs in a purportedly inappropriate manner.

The State Council said Abdel Rahman would be referred to investigation in a statement released on Wednesday.

The council held an urgent meeting Wednesday to discuss the matter, said State Council spokesperson Mohamed Zaki Moussa, adding that the council was “keen to preserve the prestige and integrity of the judiciary, and all measures will be taken to protect the judicial gown from any impurities.”

Abdel Rahman is not currently working for the State Council, but has been delegated to Qatar for three years, a source in the judicial investigations department told the privately owned Al-Arabiya news site.

The incident was preceded in December by another controversy, when Facebook users spotted a Facebook account allegedly belonging to Judge Mohamed Nagui Shehata that appeared to show that he “likes” pornography websites.

Shehata, who has recently overseen trials of leading activists and has been accused of lacking impartiality, also appeared to publicly express his political views against these activists on the Facebook account.

However, the judge denied having a Facebook account, claiming the page in question was fake.

Following the release of the images allegedly implicating Abdel Rahman, human rights activists entered into a general debate around the ethics of exposing the personal lives of public figures with controversial political views.

While some activists said it is unethical to use the personal lives of public figures to seek revenge for their unfair stances against activists, others said that this is not the case when it comes to members of the judiciary.

Human rights lawyer Malek Adly said judges must be held to a strict ethical code to guarantee the judiciary’s integrity and neutrality.

“Some judges have been sent to retirement because they sat in cafes, or were involved in suspicious relationships or gambling,” he said.

Adly criticized the ethical superiority some activists adopt in dealing with the ruling regime’s atrocities. He believes that this idealistic approach has harmed the revolution.

Revolutionaries and activists must be reminded of their insistence that former President Hosni Mubarak not be tried in revolutionary or emergency courts, but be tried according to current Egyptian law, Adly argued.

“What have we gained from this noble approach?” he said. “Mubarak is acquitted.”

But those who opposed the leak of the judge’s photos referred to a recent incident in which personal videos and photos of activist Alaa Abd El Fattah were shown during his trial. Abd El Fattah, who faces charges of violating the Protest Law, had his laptop and mobile phone confiscated when he was arrested. When the prosecution showed the evidence against him and the rest of the defendants, Fattah was surprised to see home videos showing his wife. After a backlash, the judge, who later stepped down from the trial, ordered that the evidence be dismissed.

However, Adly believes that there is a difference between the personal life of an activist or a judge. According to him, judges are compensated by many privileges for giving up some of their personal freedoms in order to meet certain ethical standards, and they are abusing those privileges by violating these standards.

“I’m not a judge, and I do not take endless privileges to compensate for some of my personal freedoms and follow a certain ethical order,” Adly explained.

Activist Khaled Abdel Hamid, who opposes the exposure of the judge’s personal life, takes a more down-to-earth approach.

“What is the benefit of a religious and committed judge if he issues unjust verdicts?” he told Mada Masr. “Injustice is our battle here.”

For Hamid, playing these kinds of games is a losing battle.

“As rights and democracy defenders, we have no control over such images. The state will win in this battle if we decide to play with the same card it uses. We all have similar photos. The state has the willingness to fabricate photos, the state is able to obtain activists’ personal data and control their personal lives to get what it wants. Such a weapon in the hands of the state is a totally different scenario,” he explained.

For him, it is more important to avoid making more enemies than it is to lose supporters.

“This judge is in the State Council. He has nothing to do with the Criminal Court or the Misdemeanor Court. Did we decide to launch our war against the entire tribe of judges? Are we in a general war now?” he asked.

“It has nothing to do with ethics or political correctness,” Hamid argued. “It has to do with formulating a political stance through which we can gain more allies than enemies.”

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