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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Egypt judges in election protest
Opposition protest in support of the judges
Opposition parties have protested in support of the judges
A group of 50 Egyptian judges is holding a sit-in protest at the judges' association in central Cairo, which has lasted three consecutive days.

The judges are protesting against the government's decision to prosecute two of their senior colleagues.

The two judges had pressed for an inquiry into alleged electoral fraud during the general election in 2005.

Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki are members of the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appellate court.

The protest will continue until 27 April, when the two judges appear before a disciplinary hearing.

The protesters want a new law granting judges independence from the government.

Correspondents say the prosecution is expected to result in the two judges losing their jobs.

Controversial election

In late 2005, President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party won more than 70% of seats in parliamentary elections.

The vote was marred by violence, including several deaths, and the conduct of the poll widely criticised.

Despite attempts in several constituencies by the security forces to the stop supporters of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood from getting to polling stations, the party won a record 19% of seats in Egypt's three-round parliamentary elections.

Over the past year the two judges have emerged as the most vocal of a group of senior judges leading a campaign calling for honest elections, BBC Cairo correspondent Heba Saleh says.

The judiciary in Egypt is required to supervise elections, but many judges have been angered by what they regard as attempts by the government to exploit them to legitimise fraud.

In a country where opposition parties are weak, the judges have become the leading force, our correspondent says.

Through their professional association, judges have issued reports detailing violations in last year's elections.

The association also continues to press loudly for a new law guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary.

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