As is well known, constitutions, including the Egyptian constitution, grant members of parliament immunity to protect them from accountability for the opinions they express and the duties they perform within the framework of their duties as representatives of the people, not to protect them from prosecution for accusations related to corruption, bribery, defamation or evasion of debt payments. However, it seems that this concept did not reach successive Egyptian parliaments, as they have been protecting their members from prosecution for crimes related to bribery, corruption, etc., by refusing to lift their immunity to allow the Public Prosecution to investigate them.
The last of these incidents occurred a few days ago, when the House of Representatives rejected a request by the Public Prosecutor to lift the immunity of MP Tamer Abdel Qader, a Member of Parliament for the Wafd Party, so that the Public Prosecution could investigate him in a major corruption and bribery case. Thus, the current parliament is following in the same footsteps as the previous parliament (2015-2020) in refusing to lift the immunity of deputies accused in criminal cases far removed from their duties as representatives of the people, which confirms that these parliaments protect their members, and that members are paid millions of pounds to get their seats, not for the sake of serving the people but to obtain immunity and protection that would enable them to commit crimes with impunity.
The majority refuses to condemn itself
Representative Abdel Qader entered the House of Representatives through the “For Egypt” list, which was formed by the Future of the Nation Party, which was established by the security services to be a political backer for the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, in cooperation with other parties, including the Wafd Party, to which Abdel Qader belongs. Of course, the regime party did not want to be stigmatised by including the corrupt on its electoral lists. The Wafd Party also feared a political scandal, in the event that the deputy was convicted in the bribery case in which he was accused, so the two parties, which hold the parliamentary majority, refused to lift the immunity of Abdel Qader in order to interrogate him.
The two parties argue that there is a “suspicion of maliciousness” in the bribery case in which Abdel Qader is accused, despite the presence of records indicating his involvement in the case and forgetting that they are accusing the Administrative Control Authority and the Public Prosecution, who investigated the case, of participating in a “planned political intrigue” for the deputy. The question now is, if the representative and the parties that support him are confident of his innocence and that his name and voice appear in the investigations and recordings by chance or as a matter of political intrigue, and if they are confident in the independence and professionalism of the Egyptian judicial institutions as they claim, then why did they representative not submit a request to parliament to lift his immunity if it puts him at the disposal of the judiciary to declare his innocence? Why did those parties not agree to lift his immunity to prove that they do not harbour the corrupt and the bribed?
Not the first incident
The former House of Representatives (2015 – 2020) on several occasions rejected requests from the Attorney General to lift the immunity of MPs to be investigated for crimes they are accused of, including crimes of insult and slander, giving cheques without balance, and evading the payment of debts. He refused to lift the immunity of a deputy against whom four prison sentences were issued in cases of bounced cheques.
Representative Khaled Bishr, an MP from the Future of the Nation Party, was sentenced to four prison sentences between 2013 and 2015, for issuing cheques without balance, but the House of Representatives repeatedly refused to lift his immunity in order to implement prison sentences, and Ali Abdel Aal, then Speaker of the Council, was satisfied, and advised the representative not to issue cheques without balance “so as not to shake his reputation.”
Parliament also rejected more than 10 requests to lift the immunity of MP Mortada Mansour to investigate him in cases of insult, slander, physical assault, and waste of money, but the parliament rejected all these requests because of Mansour’s well-known influence. Parliament also rejected a request by the Attorney General to lift the immunity of MP Muhammad Emara to investigate him on accusations of assaulting policemen with insults and beatings, preventing them from performing their work, and inciting residents to gather and block roads.