Cairo (AsiaNews) - Ordinary Egyptians and the country's judges are openly against the introduction of Sharia into Egypt's legal system. The event that sparked their reaction was the decision last Friday by Prosecutor Hussein Anan in Matay (Minya Governatorate, Upper Egypt), to impose 80 lashes on a man for drunkenness citing Verses 90 and 91 of al-Ma'eda chapter of the Qur'an rather than the Penal Code. He did so by relying on Article 2 of the new constitution, which recognises the Qur'an as its source, this even though many experts note that none of the verses states that drinking is punishable by flogging.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, said that "a majority of judges and most people in Minya and the rest of the country are against the imposition of Sharia."
The clergyman noted that Attorney General Talaat Abdallah, who was appointed back in November by President Morsi, challenged Prosecutor Anan's ruling, and immediately suspended both sentence and judge pending an investigation. The man arrested was instead placed under custody and will probably be released.
"The law states that no crime or punishment can be recognised without a legal text," said Mahmoud Al-Hefnawy, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office in Cairo. In his view and regardless of the constitution's stance towards it, Sharia cannot be enforced in Egypt.
According to Fr Greiche, the incident is sign of the chaos that has engulfed the country since the Justice and Freedom Party led by President Morsi took power.
"Now," he said, "more and more religious fundamentalists have been appointed as judges and are just waiting for the right moment to impose Islamic law in Egypt."
The violent dispute between the judges and Morsi, which broke out after a Cairo court proposed to release Mubarak to wait for the end of his trial, is another case in point, the priest noted.
In an attempt to win over the judiciary, the Islamist president announced that the mandatory retirement age for judges would be lowered to 60 from 70, forcing into retirement up to 3,500 judges, mostly from the old regime.
"These officials," Fr Greiche said, "will be replaced by people who are more agreeable to the Islamist establishment."
Still, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government has to confront Egyptians who stood up to pro-Morsi demonstrations organised by various Islamist groups. Hundreds of people were injured in clashes last Friday.
The important national association of judges, which represents half of all judges, has joined ordinary Egyptians in their protest. For months, it has tried to mediate with the government to stop the justice system from drifting towards fundamentalism. (S.C.)