Approximately 150 members of Cairo’s lawyers syndicate demonstrated against the death of colleague Kareem Hamdy, who is believed to have died at the hands of police officers at Matariya police station Tuesday.
With banners bearing Hamdy’s face draped across the syndicate headquarters in Downtown’s Ramses Street, those gathered outside rallied against police brutality and the state of law and governance in Egypt. “The Interior Ministry are hired thugs,” the outspoken and direct chants went; “State security is illegitimate”, “Al-Sisi is responsible.”
Daily News Egypt spoke to Ahmed Kinawy, an official within the Syndicate, who said that it was the first of its kind from the association to protest the killing of a colleague.
“We’re protesting against murder. It does not matter whether the person is Muslim Brotherhood or not, what matters is that a person died due to police brutality and we are uniting around this,” Kinawy said, referring to accusations Hamdy was associated with Islamist activities in Matariya.
Kinawy continued that the “martyr” Kareem Hamdy has become a symbol for lawyers in the syndicate. He told Daily News Egypt that “there will be recurrent acts of protest against his murder”. Kinawy said that “the turnout was very good, the whole Syndicate was backing it, but it would have been even larger had they not arrested the police officers involved”.
Another group of Syndicate Lawyers who spoke anonymously to Daily News Egypt said: “We are in a police state. This is worse than the days of Mubarak. All of us as lawyers feel threatened and that is why we supported the protest; it could have been any one of us.”
According to the lawyers, the police did not inform the Syndicate when Hamdy was arrested, which is normal protocol: “We should have been there to accompany Hamdy in the police station during his investigation”.
“Assuming I am a defendant, does that mean that the police have the right to do whatever they want to me, to torture me during investigations? The police cannot be both the accused and the one’s entrusted with gathering information. How can the Minstry of Interior investigate themselves?” a lawyer said.
The demonstration also lambasted the media gag on the case, which was announced by the general prosecution, restricting the media’s ability to follow the case.
Following the demonstration, members of the lawyers syndicate reported they will protest again in response to a decision from the court regarding the case of deaths at Matariya police station. Judicial authorities are believed to have ruled that lawyers seeking to attend the hearing of the police officers detained in relation to the deaths must be approved beforehand.
Khaled Ali, a lawyer and founding member of the Bread and Freedom Party who also was part of the defence in the Shura Council trial was in attendance.
The protesting lawyers also took aim at the syndicate’s president, “Down with Ashour. Leave the Syndicate. You are the one responsible.”
Hamdy’s killing sparked outrage inside the Lawyer’s Syndicate and its President Sameh Ashour promised to prosecute those responsible for his death.
However, Ashour’s widely held pro-army and police inclinations were met critically by young lawyers, who have said previously: “What we are suffering from in violations against lawyers are a result of years of having a Syndicate leader whose only goal is to be close to the state and to run for the parliamentary elections”.
Ashour is seen as a vocal supporter of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, and will run in the upcoming elections.
Photos by Omar Qurashi