Egypt justice minister resigns after controversial remarks

Judges are ‘lofty and have status,’ and must come from ‘a respectable milieu,’ Justice Minister Mahfouz Saber

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Egypt’s justice minister submitted his resignation on Monday following calls for his sacking after he said the sons of cleaners could not become judges, insisting that the judiciary was too “lofty” for such people, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Judges are “lofty and have status,” and must come from “a respectable milieu,” Justice Minister Mahfouz Saber said in a television interview on Sunday.

If a son of a cleaner were to work as a judge, “he would get depressed and won’t continue”, Saber said.

Critics have now taken to Twitter to call for him to be fired.

“The son of a cleaner can’t work in the judiciary. But he can die in Sinai defending you,” wrote one user, referring to a military campaign against an Islamist insurgency in the peninsula.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former vice president, pointed out that international rights charters guarantee freedom of choice of employment.

“When the sense of justice abandons a country, nothing is left,” he tweeted.

ElBaradei briefly served as vice president after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, resigning in protest over the ensuing deadly crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

The judiciary has come under increasing criticism for its harsh verdicts against members of the political opposition, with hundreds of Islamists sentenced to death over violent protests.

Saber’s classist remarks were not the first from the judiciary to cause controversy in a country where government figures show at least 26 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Last year, 138 prosecution service applicants were turned down because their fathers had not obtained university degrees.

The Egyptian constitution prohibits discrimination based on class or gender.