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El-Khodeiry speaks out on resignation, state of the judiciary
El-Khodeiry speaks out on resignation, state of the judiciary
Counselor Mahmoud el-Khodeiry in a post-resignation interview gives a look at the conditions of the judiciary system, says the state disrespects the legal system
Monday, September 28,2009 16:27
by Tarek Amin Al-Masrey Al-Youm

"I have a feeling of comfort since I resigned," said Mahmoud el-Khodeiry when he began his interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm. El-Khodeiry resigned as vice-chairman of the Court of Cassation recently after 46 years of judicial service. He says his resignation was due to his age and to protest the deteriorating conditions of judges and the feeling of hopelessness in the judicial system.

El-Khodeiry, 69, received Al-Masry Al-Youm at his home in Alexandria, dressed in a white galabiya. He has given up his formal clothing, as if trying to assert that he will make no return to his previous profession. El-Khodeiry became a judge in 1963, just three years before the infamous "judges carnage" in which President Gamal Abdel Nasser deposed hundreds of judges he accused of being hostile to his military regime.

The judge does not think his resignation should come as a surprise. "I hastened to resignation for fear of erring, because mistakes at the Court of Cassation are irreparable, if a citizen loses his right for cassation as a result of a judge's mistake, he loses it forever," he says.

This "inherent imprisoning of justice" forced el-Khodeiry to more than once express his astonishment at the controversy that has followed him since news of his resignation broke. He is now feeling "relaxed," as he frequently told us in the interview, asserting that he will criticize the regime's practices against the judiciary and defend freedoms as fiercely as he can.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Counselor, why did you resign at this time?

El-Khodeiry: This is the proper time for my resignation in order not to disrupt work before the beginning of the new judicial year in the district court, and not to upset the distribution of the judicial tasks. I have to reconcile between the working interests and my own, so I did not think only of myself. I could have resigned last year, but for my personal interests not to take precedence over that of work I didn't. I have tendered resignation to President of the Cassation Court Counselor Adel Abbel Hamid to give him a chance to name a substitute court chief. If I had resigned last year, particularly few days ahead of the judicial year, this would have caused disruption to the court's functions.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Some reports had it that you would be pensioned on 30 June and resigned at this time came to draw attention to yourself.

El-Khodeiry: This talk is unfounded. There would be a whole judicial year coming and close associates know I wanted to resign two years ago. I put the resignation on the back-burner as it would have been in the middle of the judicial year, which would leave the work in disarray and eventually prejudice claimants.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Frankly, did you make the decision to resign after being sure that retirement age wasn't going to be raised?

El-Khodeiry: I've never waited for a decision to raise the retirement age. Not only that, but I'm an ardent opponent of such a decision because the disadvantages by far outweigh the benefits. Besides, raising the age of retirement could happen any time. The age could still be raised to 72 or not. I'm not counting on this and I've decided to take the decision that I feel is correct.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: But had you been positive that the age of retirement was going to be raised to above 70, what would you have done?

El-Khodeiry: Do you mean that I wouldn't have retired? No, even if they had raised it, I would have still resigned. To prove my point, I had decided to resign two years ago, though retirement age was lifted from 68 to 70, but my colleagues then convinced me to put off the decision.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What do you think of those who say that your resignation is an attempt to spark media hype?

El-Khodeiry: This is complete nonsense. I shouldn't even respond to such allegations. I'll just say that if I had wanted to stir media hype, I would have informed all the mass media. I could have called a press conference. Especially since I submitted my resignation letter to the Court of Cassation around a week ago which, in turn, referred it to the Court's Technical Office. You were the first to call me to find out the truth and so this is a scoop for Al-Masry Al-Youm. I was not intending to talk about this now. I was waiting for the right timing.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What is the right timing?

El-Khodeiry: Early judicial year, namely at the beginning of next October. [My decision] would then be at the Minister of Justice's office and effective.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Does this mean it has not become effective yet?

El-Khodeiry: No. Of course, my resignation became effective once I wrote it, but the law stipulates that the resignation should be submitted to the Minister of Justice.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: But the minister could reject it in accordance with the law?

El-Khodeiry: Yes, that is why I have submitted it without mentioning the reasons behind it so that he cannot reject it. I just wrote: "To the Justice Minister, I hereby submit my resignation from the Court of Cassation as of 1 October 2009. Thank you."

Al-Masry Al-Youm: But you did mention reasons in your letter to the president of the Court of Cassation?

El-Khodeiry: Yes, so that I do not cause Chancellor Adel Abdel Hamid any embarrassment as he starts his new term in office. Also, I did not mention all my reasons, so as not to embarrass any of my colleagues.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: But you told us you had many reasons behind your resignation. What are they?

El-Khodeiry: As I mentioned in my letter to the president of the court, I feel I am unable to go on for physical and psychological reasons. I will turn 70 in less than a year.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Do you think extending the retirement age for judges is good?

El-Khodeiry: At the risk of offending my colleagues, I'm afraid extending it from the age of 60 to 70 is not good. We need to promote the younger judges.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: How did Chancellor Adel Abdel Hamid react to your resignation?

El-Khodeiry: He tried to talk me out of it, but accepted it in the end when he found that I was adamant. And he told me that he also feels sick and tired of that kind of work.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: But why did the government, or rather the regime, raise the retirement age?

El-Khodeiry: So as to keep a grip on the judiciary by doing it a favor, to retain certain judges in high posts. This affects the independence of the judiciary.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What do you think is the right retirement age?

El-Khodeiry: Between 60 and 65. Above that age one gets tired. This is why I left, fearing I could easily make mistakes.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: How about those who work till the age of 80?

El-Khodeiry: A wrong thing to do. It afflicts the whole country with stagnation.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: We were told you have resigned to protest against something. What was it?

El-Khodeiry: Against all problems and obstructions within the judiciary. We get frustrated when we see that our verdicts are deliberately not carried out by the regime. Also, an appeal may take as long as ten years and still the verdict is not carried out. And the people began to sense that the government does not heed the judiciary, which made them do whatever they like. Not to mention the amount of money spent on lawyers and judicial expenses, all in vain. Going to court has become a waste of time and money. So people now take their rights with their own hands, or rather pay thugs to get it for them. It has become chaotic.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: And where is the government in all that?

El-Khodeiry: Sleeping.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Deliberately?

El-Khodeiry: Premeditatedly.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: You mentioned in your resignation that you are frustrated. Why?

El-Khodeiry: I'm not the only one. Most judges are frustrated at what is happening to the judiciary. For example, they don't like trying civilians before military courts. Also, they don't like it when acquittals are not carried out. Once a defendant is announced innocent, the security services arrest him again inside the courtroom. So what do they need us for? And how come the president claims he respects the judiciary?

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Does he not?

El-Khodeiry: He just says so but acts differently.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What do you expect of him?

El-Khodeiry: A president is responsible for everything that happens in the country. I once heard that the whole government of a certain European country had to resign when a judicial verdict was not implemented. And don't tell me the president doesn't know that our verdicts are ignored. They probably tell him the judges live in ivory towers and that they ignore them so as to protect the security and stability of the regime.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Was harassment by the security services behind your resignation?

El-Khodeiry: This started when we staged a sit-in after two of our colleagues were sent to disciplinary court for revealing vote-rigging during the last parliamentary election. I used to tell the Alexandria prosecutor anything he asked without any reservations. But suddenly I found that there are police surveillance cars in front of my house. They chased me wherever I went. And when I found out that my phone was tapped, I spoke more freely because I fear no one.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: How are your relations with the officials and with the police?

El-Khodeiry: I have good relations with them.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Tell us more about the reasons for your resignation.

El-Khodeiry: The courts are shabby. You should see how the files and the documents are handled. Just one match is enough to put the whole Court of Cassation to blaze. If you only knew how that magnificent Supreme Court building looks from the inside. Where do all the millions in court construction funds go?

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Your colleagues had reservations about some of the things you used to say or do.

El-Khodeiry: I know. And this was one of the reasons why I resigned, because it saddened me. But I will not stop fighting the regime for its attempts to humiliate the judiciary.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: What will you do, now that you have resigned?

El-Khodeiry: I will open a law office.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Will you have financial problems now that you have resigned from your job?

El-Khodeiry: Sure. I used to get LE 12,000, now I will only get LE 1800 in pension.

Al-Masry Al-Youm: Perhaps this was the reason why your colleague Bastawisi had to go work in the Gulf.

El-Khodeiry: The regime makes sure that all judges have financial problems by paying them little, except the few that serve its interests. Some are unable to buy a car, others are in debt.

Related Study:

[PDF] 

Egypt's Judges Step Forward

tags: Judiciary / Alexandria / Resignation / Cassation Court / Judges / Egypt / Mubarak / Khodeiry / judges club / Zakareya Abdel-Aziz / Bastawesy / Mekky / Noha Zeiny / Noha Al Zeini
Posted in Judges Activites  
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