Egyptian officials threaten Amal Clooney with arrest

London: Egyptian officials warned human rights barrister Amal Clooney that she risked arrest after she identified serious flaws in the country’s judicial system that contributed to the conviction of three Al-Jazeera journalists now jailed in Cairo.

Amal Clooney
Amal Clooney, who is the lawyer for one of the three jailed journalists, said they were victims of the same flaws that she earmarked in a February 2014 report about Egyptian courts. Pic/ap

Clooney, a lawyer for one of the trio, said they were victims of the same flaws that she earmarked in a February 2014 report about Egyptian courts.

Written before Clooney became involved in this case, officials threatened her team with arrest should they have tried to present its findings inside Egypt. “When I went to launch the report, first of all they stopped us from doing it in Cairo. They said: ‘Does the report criticise the army, the judiciary, or the government?’ We said yes. They said: ‘Well then, you’re risking arrest,’” she said.

The report, compiled on behalf of the International Bar Association, pointed out that officials in the ministry of justice have wide powers over nominally independent judges, and highlighted the control the government can exert over state prosecutors.

Clooney and her co-authors suggested ending the practice that allows Egyptian officials to handpick judges for certain politicised cases.

The three journalists — Mohamed Fahmy, whom Clooney represents, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were initially sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail last June by Egyptian judge Mohamed Nagy Shehata.

Shehata became notorious during the trial for rarely taking off his aviator sunglasses, mocking Fahmy’s fiancée, and for cracking a joke about World Press Freedom day.

At the trio’s appeal on New Year’s Day, a new judge agreed to a retrial, after recognising problems with the initial process. Clooney said, “We must double our efforts to achieve his release in other ways.” 

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