Housing Minister Mostafa Madbuly was sentenced to one year in prison on Wednesday, in a decision which also demanded his removal from office for failing to uphold an earlier verdict relating to the reinstatement of a former ministry employee. However, with a slew of ministers previously facing and avoiding similar charges, it is questionable whether the verdict will be enforced.
The Haram Criminal Court set Madbuly’s bail at LE2,000 and ordered him to pay LE30,000 in compensation to the employee. However, the housing minister has not yet been jailed, removed from office nor has he been compelled to pay the bail or compensation as the verdict was issued in absentia.
A former Housing Ministry employee Azza Attwa filed the case against Madbuly earlier in 2017, claiming that he failed to implement a previous judicial verdict ordering she be reinstated in her job after being punitively and wrongfully fired.
An anonymous source from the Housing Ministry told the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper that Madbuly’s lawyers are appealing Wednesday’s verdict, and that “the minister has no worries regarding this verdict.”
Rights lawyer Taher Abul Nasr tells Mada Masr that while courts have issued verdicts sentencing ministers to prison and demanding their removal from office in the past, these verdicts were appealed and the ministers subsequently acquitted. He cannot recall a case in which an incumbent minister or a senior government official has been removed from office and imprisoned for failing to uphold a previous verdict.
Article 123 of Egypt’s Criminal Code stipulates: Detention and removal from office shall be the penalty imposed on any public official or civil servant who uses their authority or position of power to suspend the execution of orders issued by the government, a ruling or judicial order issued by a court.
Abul Nasr says that while the provisions of this article are straightforward, under most conditions government officials are generally able to avoid the penalties.
Article 123 of the Criminal Code applies to all public officials in light of their failure to uphold judicial verdicts.
He adds that if someone is sentenced in absentia, as in Madbuly’s case, and the sentence is appealed, “then this ruling is dropped upon commencement of the appeal process.”
It is on this basis that ministers like Madbuly manage to steer clear of the aforementioned penalties, he says, “even though Article 123 of the Criminal Code applies to all public officials in light of their failure to uphold judicial verdicts.”
Abul Nasr adds “there is no legal differentiation in terms of whether this public official is a governor, minister, prime minister or any other governmental authority.”
Previously the ministers of interior, social solidarity, finance and sports have all been issued prison sentences and ordered to leave office for failing to uphold judicial verdicts. None of these penalties have been enforced.
The Nasr City Criminal Court sentenced interior minister at the time, Mohamed Ibrahim, to two years in prison and ordered him to leave office in May 2013 for failing to uphold a ruling requiring him to pay LE20,000 compensation to two detainees who claimed to have been wrongly detained as political prisoners. The case dates back to 2008, before he held the office.
Ibrahim appealed the verdict, and avoided prison time.
A court ordered his removal from office, and sentenced him to one year in prison again in 2015. The New Cairo Criminal Court issued this ruling following Ibrahim’s failure to reinstate a student at the Police Academy who the Administrative Court found had been wrongfully dismissed. Again, he was neither jailed nor removed from office.
Former interior minister, now fugitive, Habib al-Adly also previously faced a one month prison sentence in for failing to uphold a ruling demanding the reinstatement of a police officer who had been ordered into early retirement. Adly’s defense team appealed the verdict, and the Agouza Appeals Court acquitted him in December 2016.
Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly was also handed a one year prison sentence and dismissed from her ministerial post in early 2016 for failing to implement an earlier ruling which found that a ministerial employee had been denied his pension. Her defense team appealed the verdict, and the Dokki Criminal Court moved to acquit her in May 2016.
In 2015, former Finance Minister, Hany Kadry Dimian was sentenced to one year imprisonment and dismissed from his position for failing to enforce a court order pertaining to the ministry’s non-payment of financial compensation to a citizen. The Nozha Criminal Court acquitted him in November of the same year, and it remains unclear whether this exempts the ministry from paying the compensation owed.
A host of governors have been slapped with similar charges and dismissal orders, and similarly been acquitted after appealing their cases.
One statesperson who did not so easily avoid these charges is former Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, who was appointed in 2012 by former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, and was removed from office in July 2013.
Qandil was sentenced to one year in prison, and dismissed from his position in 2012 for failing to enforce failing to enforce a September 2011 Administrative Court ruling. Pre-dating his tenure as prime minister, the decision was related to voiding the privatization of the Nile Cotton Ginning Company.
Initially, Qandil successfully appealed the case. However in December 2013, following Morsi’s ouster, security forces arrested him and referred him to trial. His defense team appealed the sentence before the Court of Cassation, and he remained in detention until he was ultimately acquitted in July 2014, and his sentence annulled.
As one of the very few statespeople to serve time for failing to uphold a previous verdict, Abul Nasr says Qandil’s time in detention likely stems from the fact he was not in office at the time of his arrest, having been ousted alongside other loyal members of Morsi’s government.