March 16, 2012
More than 300 Muslim lawyers inside and outside a courthouse in the southern Egyptian province of Assuit today prevented defense lawyer Ahmad Sayed Gabali, who is representing the Christian Makarem Diab, from going into court. Mr. Diab was found guilty of 'Insulting the Muslim Prophet' and was scheduled today a hearing on his appeal.
Attorney Dr. Naguib Gabriell, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said there was "terror in the Assiut Court today." He added that he was on his way to court when he was advised that Muslim lawyers have issued death threats to any Christian lawyers who attend the court session. "Makram Diab was assaulted by Muslim lawyers during his transfer from the courtroom and security failed to protect him."
Peter Sarwat, a Coptic lawyer, said that Muslim lawyers representing the plaintiffs prevented the defense team from entering court. "They said no Muslim will defend a Christian. It was agreed that Christian lawyers would take over and two Coptic lawyers volunteered, but the Muslims decided later that even Christians would not defend him." Sarwat said the Muslim lawyers wanted to assault the chief judge but he managed to leave the court via a rear door.
Adel Ramadam and Ahmad Mohamad Hossam, two Muslim lawyers and activists from the renowned NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) went to court to defend Diab's right to a fair trial but were assaulted by the other Muslim lawyers. "They were assaulting us in a beastly and strange way just because we went there to defend a citizen who happened to be a Christian," said Adel Ramadam. He also said that to get out of court was a complex operation and a huge task for the security personnel. "We left court in a security vehicle which took us to Security headquarters, otherwise, we don't know what the outcome would have been for us."
Makram Diab, a school secretary was sentenced by the Abanoub misdemeanor court two weeks ago to six years imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam's prophet. His defense lawyer, Ahmad Sayed Gabali, was also prevented during that session from entering the court by Muslim lawyers (AINA 3-5-2012).
"I went to court today because I believe this citizen was stripped of all his rights," said Adel Ramadam in an aired interview today. "He had a quarrel with a Salafi school colleague and then 11 days later, it was suddenly decided by Muslims that they will report the case. He was detained by the prosecution for 4 days and two days later in a 10-minute session and without any defense lawyer present, he was sentenced to 6 years, which is way above the maximum of a misdemeanor case."
Eyewitnesses reported that the Muslim lawyers were armed with clubs. A police captain, b two EIPR lawyer, and two reporters from Ros-el-Youssef and El-Bashayer Egyptian newspapers were injured in the melee.
Human rights groups reported that they were also forced out of the courtroom by the Muslims.
Adel Ramadam said the court session never started because the judge knew that the defense were prevented from entering the court, and knew of the assaults. "He just postponed the appeal session to April 5."
By Mary Abdelmassih