Revisiting Judge Bastawisi

Judge Hisham Bastawisi with Trudy Rubin in Cairo.

One of the most satisfying interviews of my trip to Egypt was my visit to the home of Judge Hisham Bastawisi in Cairo.

I last met him in 2005, when he was leading a protest by Egypt’s judges against the Mubarak regime’s misuse of the judiciary. At the time I wrote a column calling on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit the Judges Club on one of her visits to Cairo and support those who were being persecuted for insisting on the for rule of law.

 The Egyptian constitution calls on judges to oversee the counting of ballots, in order to prevent rigging. However, the regime had introduced new legislation that made this oversight virtually impossible and rigging increased exponentially. Bastawisi was hounded, criminal charges were brought against him (which were later dismissed), and the pressure brought on a heart attack. He eventually left Egypt to work in Kuwait.

 Now the judge is back, and is being praised as a leader of the fight for democracy. He is calling for the military – which is now the real power in Egypt - to get rid of holdovers from the Mubarak regime, like Justice Minister Mamdouh Marie, who curbed judicial independence.

 And Judge Bastawisi is being widely discussed as a potential candidate for Egyptian president.