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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Egyptian judges come out in force
Egyptian judges silent protest
Some of the judges came out with their red judicial sashes
At least 300 Egyptian judges have joined a protest against the government over interference in the judiciary.

The judges stood in silence outside the High Court in Cairo to press their demands for full independence.

Hundreds of police surrounded the court and prevented journalists and other activists from joining the protest.

Earlier this month, two Egyptian judges were prosecuted after they accused pro-government colleagues of manipulating election results in 2005.

Judge Mahmoud Mekki, who was acquitted of wrongdoing, attended the protest but his colleague Hesham Bastawisi, who was disciplined by the panel, was too ill after suffering a heart attack last week.

"We are calling for the independence of the judiciary... and our complete supervision of elections if there is to be supervision from now on," said Ahmed Salah, a judge at the protest, who wore his ceremonial red sash.

The protest passed peacefully, unlike two others earlier this month, in which security forces and plainclothes men beat and detained protestors.

Egypt reborn

Correspondents say the judges' case has become a rallying-point for those seeking democratic reform in Egypt.

Outside the court, about 100 media employees and activists clapped and cheered the judges.

"It's like Egypt has been reborn," said Bissam Kassab, an anti-government journalist and activist.

"Why are so many journalists arrested in Egypt? Because the state interferes with judges. Freedom is in judges' hands and I'm protecting my freedom by supporting them," she said in quotes carried by Reuters news agency.

Other opposition activists held separate protests marking the first anniversary of a constitutional amendment referendum to allow multiple candidates in presidential elections, but with tight controls favouring the ruling party candidate.

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