CAIRO: Activists around the world are picketing Egyptian embassies under the slogan “The Egyptian judges are not alone! We are not alone, marking May 25 as a day of support for Egyptians “in their quest for freedom and in their fight against tyranny.
As protests raged in Cairo, an international coalition of supporters of the two judges Hisham El-Bastwisy and Mahmoud Mekki and those detained for their cause staged protests in Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Toronto, Athens, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Beirut and Montreal.
The two judges underwent a disciplinary hearing for claiming that corruption and fraud took place during last year’s presidential electoral process. Last week one judge was acquitted and the other was reprimanded. Political and opposition forces in Egypt, despite the pardon, deemed the act offensive to judges. Protests surged in support of the judges; police rounded-up demonstrators in the hundreds and detained them in Tora Mazraa Prison near Cairo.
“Activists around the world are coming together to support our cause. The Egyptian experiment for freedom is attracting more and more audience, read the statement of the international protests. “Right now, they [the Egyptian government] are starting to be alone. It is a matter of who has stronger stamina now. So let s prove it is us.
The international activity groups have launched what they called The International campaign in solidarity with the Egyptian judges. The Egyptian Committee in Support of the Egyptian Judges in London and Chicago, the Toronto Solidarity Campaign, the International Campaign for Solidarity with the Judges in the United States, the International Socialist Committee in Britain, the Cairo Conference group, the London-based Stop the War Coalition, the Athens Labor Center and Global Resistance are all part of the movement.
According to these groups, their campaign came in response to a Kefaya (Enough) movement’s call for Egyptians living abroad “to campaign, explain and introduce the Egyptian cause to the world. Before the protests, the group held a public meeting in London where around 65 journalists, European and Egyptian high-profile speakers explained the Egyptian situation and the challenges facing political activists under the current government.
“The Egyptian judiciary is still a long way from independence, said Shehab Ismail, a protest organizer. “The struggle for the independence of the Egyptian judiciary, a cornerstone of any thriving democracy, is being actively hindered by the Mubarak [government]. The Mubarak [government] is sending clear and heavy-handed signals that peaceful protests, a constitutional right, will not be tolerated.
Activists in Chicago formed a solidarity group with the judges, the Egyptian Committee for Judges Support, calling for the independence of the Egyptian judicial system and a halt to the arrests of protesters.
“We oppose the violent repression and arrests in Egypt, stated Sherry Wolf, Chicago protest organizer. “We wish to express our distress at the brutal treatment of peaceful demonstrators calling for legal reform . We call upon the Egyptian authorities to show respect for human rights and the independence of the Egyptian judiciary by releasing the detainees without delay.
On Thursday, the group organized a peaceful protest, attended by around 25 people, in front of the Egyptian consulate to demonstrate solidarity with the Egyptian judges. According to their statement, the group condemns the “brutal crackdown, brutal beatings, unjustified arrest, verbal abuse and threats of sexual assault targeting female demonstrations and journalists, which the Egyptian security police had carried out, targeting pro-reform protesters. The group also believed that “many of the injured demonstrators could not get medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals as they feared arrest.
“Being outside of Egypt doesn t take away from our role and responsibilities as Egyptians to do our part to serve the freedom of our people, said the Egyptian supporters. “Egypt needs its sons and daughters to take a united solid stance today not tomorrow. The sense of remorse and hopelessness we have felt in the past regarding the situation at home must cease to exist.
As the activists protested in Chicago, Wolf said they received “accounts of torture of some pro-democracy detainees at a Cairo police station by way of a Kefaya statement.
“I was outraged along with others here to read about the arrest and torture, Wolf tells The Daily Star Egypt, adding that protesters in each city read the Kefaya statement to bystanders.
“If the Egyptian government believes that it will silence us in this way, I can only reply that brutalities such as these only serve to fuel our commitment to continue to organize solidarity with our Egyptian brothers and sisters.
In New York, some 30 protesters carried poster-size pictures featuring police violence.
In the London protests, activist distributed fliers to spectators explaining the Egyptian situation.
“Like so many other Egyptians living abroad, we remain well connected with events and contemporary issues in Egypt. However, like so many others we have significant concerns regarding a nation whose values of tolerance and free expression we feel might be jeopardized, read their flier.
The intention is not a one off demonstration that reflects a wave of sudden enthusiasm that might quickly dissipate; rather, it is of a sustained campaign that engages with the different active social groups and media.
The Paris demonstration was organized with the help of the European Social Forum and Egyptian activists living in Paris, attracting around 30 people.
A group of South Korean activists staged a protest in Seoul in solidarity with the judges and activists. Last year, the same group organized a protest in support of Kefaya in the wake of its protests against the government.
May 25, the date most of the protests took place, marks what the opposition and human rights activist have called the first anniversary of Black Wednesday, when during a key vote on an amendment of an article in the constitution, opposition protesters were beaten and assaulted.