[JURIST] Two Egyptian judges faced disciplinary hearings at the Egyptian Supreme Court Thursday for their criticisms of parliamentary elections [JURIST report] last year, which they and eight other judges claimed were marred by fraud. The two judges, Hesham el-Bastawisy and Mahmoud Mekki, are members of the Judge's Club, an 8,000-member group that is pushing for greater judicial independence. They are among several judges who were stripped of judicial immunity [JURIST report] in February and charged with slander for speaking out against the elections. "Our case is not important," stated El-Bastasiwy, "what is important is ... the right of the Egyptian people to have an independent judiciary, democracy, and free elections." He called the disciplinary panel unconstitutional because the defendants were not permitted to have lawyers, as is mandated by Article 67 of the Egyptian Constitution [text]. The hearing was adjourned and postponed until May 11.
President Hosni Mubarak [official profile] has denied that the government is behind the prosecutions, describing the incident as a clash between the Judge's Club and the Supreme Judiciary Council. President Mubarak is currently contemplating extending the country's emergency laws [JURIST report], which prohibit public demonstrations and allow the government to arrest anyone who is deemed to be a threat to state security. Protesters have gathered outside the Judge's Club for the past nine days, and an estimated 2,000 demonstrated outside the hearing Thursday, according to the Movement for Democratic Change, or Kifaya [BBC profile], the group that has organized the manifestations. The group claimed that 16 protesters were arrested and one was beaten Thursday. Al-Ahram Weekly has local coverage. AP has more.