For the second time in a week, a group of lawyers have publicly refused to continue representing their clients before a Cairo judge notorious for his unwillingness to free defendants held in remand detention.
On Saturday, attorney Mostafa Nasr spoke on behalf of lawyers defending clients in Case 640/2018 and announced to judge Hassan Farid that they were withdrawing from representing their clients without stating a reason, according to Shorouk Salam, another attorney in the case who was present in the courtroom at the time. Farid immediately referred Nasr to face disciplinary proceedings for “failing to perform his duties.”
Another lawyer, Ahmed Abdel Latif, told Mada Masr that, soon afterward, when the court was considering renewing detention for his client, Mohamed Abu Zayed, in Case 441/2018, he also announced his withdrawal from the court.
Abdel Latif said that this angered Farid, who then demanded Abdel Latif hand over his Lawyers Syndicate credentials and personal ID card. Abdel Latif refused, stating that they were not with him. Farid ordered Abdel Latif to face disciplinary proceedings and recorded him as having stepped down from his role. Abdel Latif explained that he withdrew from the case, but did not waver from his duties.
Salam justified the lawyers’ decision to withdraw, telling Mada Masr, “Hassan Farid’s court does not release any defendant even if they exceed the maximum two-year remand detention period.” She added that lawyers will continue to refuse to appear before Farid for any detention renewal sessions.
The incident comes a week after another group of lawyers withdrew from Farid’s court on December 22 in protest of what they said was a “lack of response” from the court to repeated requests to free defendants being held in remand detention.
In a similar reaction, Farid ordered the lawyer who announced the withdrawal, Ahmed Saad, to face disciplinary proceedings, before proceeding to hear 33 cases in the absence of lawyers. Of the 150 defendants whose detentions as part of these cases were being considered, none were released.
“We believe the judge is prejudiced in these cases and there is no value in our presence before him,” Saad previously told Mada Masr. “It is my right to withdraw from the case if it is pointless to proceed.”
Following the lawyers’ withdrawal on Saturday, Farid reviewed detention renewals for 31 defendants in the absence of lawyers. Among those whose remand detention was extended for 45 days was journalist Hesham Gaafar, photojournalist Mohamed Abu Zeid and political activist Mohamed al-Qassas.
Defendants can languish for weeks, months, or even years in remand detention without ever being convicted of a crime. While there are no official figures for the number of people in remand detention in Egypt, in January 2018, Parliament’s Human Rights Committee head Alaa Abed estimated that there are 25,000–30,000 individuals held in remand detention in Egypt.