Egypt fired Justice Minister Ahmed Zend Sunday after he was criticised for saying he would jail Islam's Prophet Mohammad if he broke the law.
"Prime Minister Sherif Ismail issued a decree today to relieve Ahmed Zend ... of his position," a government statement said, giving no more details.
Purported refusal by Zend to submit resignation points to a power struggle within the Egypt regime.— The Big Pharaoh (@TheBigPharaoh) March 13, 2016
Zend’s firing comes a few days after his comments on jailing Prophet Mohammed went viral. When asked about jailing journalists in Egypt during a TV interview, the former minister said "even if it's the prophet - peace and prayers be upon him - the wrongdoer regardless of their stature" would be imprisoned if they break the law.
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Amid the backlash, Zend issued issued an apology Saturday in another interview. The man is notorious for his views against free speech, journalists and the banned Muslim Brotherhood party, which former and first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi belonged to.
Good riddance to bad garbage. Al-Zend's term was a stain upon the history of justice in modern Egypt. @minafayek— Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) March 13, 2016
Zend was appointed by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last year after his predecessor was also sacked over comments that the children of garbage collectors could not possibly become judges for their lack of status, exposing an elitism problem within Sissi’s regime.
His appointment was seen as a clear demonstration of Sissi’s clampdown on dissent by secular activists and what is left of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last month he was condemned by local and international human rights groups when he called for the death of "at least 10,000" Muslim Brotherhood members for every soldier killed.
Back in 2011, Zend came out against the revolution to oust the country’s longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak as well as the free elections that followed and brought Morsi to power.
Egypt’s top religious school al-Azhar issued a statement hours before the news of his sacking, warning against any blasphemous comments about Islam’s prophet even if by mistake.
Meanwhile, Egyptian judges issued a statement opposing Zend's removal over what the head of the Judges Club Abdallah Fathi told Reuters was a slip of the tongue that could have happened to anyone, stressing that Zend had “defended Egypt and its people, judiciary and nation in the face of the terrorist organisation,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the 2014 coup by then head of army Sissi, Egyptian courts have been absolving Mubarak-era officials while imposing long sentences on secular and Islamist activists.
Courts and judges have also issued orders for mass executions of thousands of alleged Muslim Brotherhood members over terrorism charges in what activists and human rights groups call rigged and unfair trials.
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