Stop Shehata: The Story of An Egyptian Judge
This week in The Illustrated PEN, guest editor Seth Tobocman of World War 3 Illustrated features a piece by anonymous Egyptian cartoonists. In this small yet powerful comic strip, the cartoonists expose the questionable practices of the notorious Egyptian judge Nagy Shehata, who has presided over numerous high-profile cases in the past several years, and is infamous for his blatant prejudice against activists, support for the regime, and his excessive and biased verdicts.
Seth Tobocman writes, “Ever since we published the drawings of Palestinian cartoonist Naji-Al-Ali in the 1980s, World War 3 Illustrated has supported the Arab people in their struggle for full human rights and democracy. Today we are working with a number of comic book artists in Egypt, Lebanon, Kashmir, Iran and Jordan. Here, courageous graphic novelists take on the corrupt Egyptian judiciary. We are honored that they have trusted us to translate the piece. We thank Elisabeth Jaquette for translating it and PEN for helping us bring it to a wider audience.”
Egyptian Judge Nagy Shehata has presided over numerous high-profile cases in the past several years, and is infamous for his blatant prejudice against activists, support for the regime, and his excessive and biased verdicts. Shehata sentenced activist Ahmed Douma and 229 other defendants to life imprisonment and a 17 million EGP fine for participating in a sit-in, at which the police killed 17 protestors. When Douma verbally reacted to the verdict in court, the judge said he would add three more years to his sentence. No officer has ever been tried, or even charged, for these deaths.
Meanwhile, Shehata—who is a former officer himself—publicly stated that a police officer known as the “Eye Sniper” was just a “poor officer” who didn’t mean to hurt protesters. The “Eye Sniper” was convicted for deliberately blinding protesters during demonstrations by aiming rubber bullets at their eyes. In 2014, Shehata sentenced 183 defendants to death in one trial for charges related to violence in the town of Kerdasa, in Giza. He also sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to seven to ten years in prison, even though none of the footage shown in court corroborated charges that they had falsified news.
Judge Shehata routinely abuses and intimidates lawyers in his courtroom, refers them to investigation, and disregards their requests. In 2015 he banned all journalists from attending his court sessions—except those from state-owned media. Shehata is also one of the judges accused of rigging the 2005 parliamentary elections in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party. Legal and civil society activists filed an official complaint about these judges in 2013, but it was dismissed without any further investigation. Shehata’s blatant political bias is clear: he described 6th of April, the political activist group, as “6th of Satan,’ and ruled against several of its members. He referred to the January 25th revolution as the “January 25th defeat” in an interview, and when this aroused controversy, he falsely denied having made the comments—prompting the newspaper to release an audio recording of the interview proving he had. While other judges have been censured for making statements in the media, Shehata is a routine spokesperson for the state. He regularly appears on pro-regime TV channels, and has publicly declared his support for the current president, former defense minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Egypt’s judiciary is notoriously corrupt. Stop Shehata and stand in solidarity with the people who have had the misfortune of entering his courtroom.
The Illustrated PEN aspires to be at the intersection of literature, journalism, and visual storytelling, where images and words come together in an ever-emerging and essential creative form. We feature fiction and nonfiction graphic narratives, comics journalism and illustrated reportage, stories of social justice and personal stories that can’t be told through words alone.