The head of Egypt’s Lawyer’s Syndicate, Sameh Ashour, has distanced himself from association members protesting the investigation of police officers accused of torturing lawyer Kareem Hamdy to death last week.
In an official statement Monday, the head of the syndicate said lawyers within the association are seeking to use the event to unsettle it. He called on lawyers to unite and support the syndicate’s official work with the case and stop those trying to exploit the moment.
Hamdy was reportedly killed Tuesday following a period of detention at Matariya police station. In the surrounding days, two other men died at the same police station, with all three believed to have died from abuse and torture at the hands of officers at the station.
Following the death of Hamdy last Tuesday, Ashour said a delegation of lawyers was immediately dispatched to the morgue to inspect Hamdy’s corpse. Other lawyers he tasked with reporting the crime and following the case.
Approximately 150 members of Cairo’s lawyers syndicate demonstrated Sunday against the death of colleague Hamdy and the surrounding case. Lawyers also protested about police brutality and the lack of transparency in the case of the arrested police officers. This is namely with regards to a media gag ordered by the Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat, which was supported by Ashour.
Many syndicate members took a different position to Ashour, when Daily News Egypt attended the protest. Ahmed Kinawy, a member of the syndicate, said the whole association was backing the protest.
Ashour’s statement continues that the prosecution is conducting the investigation into the case with “impartiality and professionalism”, using forensic evidence. He continues to maintain that the Syndicate works to strongly defend its lawyers.
The lawyers who protested on Sunday chanted: “Down with Ashour. Leave the Syndicate. You are the one responsible.”
Ashour’s widely held pro-army and police inclinations have met criticism from young lawyers, who have previously said: “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”.
Lawyers can attend and observe the hearings of police officers investigated for the recent killing of Hamdy, according to a statement from the Prosecutor General’s office.
On Sunday, a north Cairo court extended the detention of two policemen accused in the death of Hamdy for a further 15 days pending investigations into torture. Matariya has been the seat of some of Cairo’s strongest Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood-supporting protests and witnessed bloody clashes in the days around the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
The station has been called a ‘slaughterhouse’, due to its reputation for detainee abuse. Hamdy was detained on accusations of involvement with the outlawed Brotherhood and involvement in Islamist protests.