Prominent judge to be Egypt's new justice minister

Egyptian appeals court judge Ahmed Mekky said he has accepted the post of justice minister in Egypt's first cabinet in the government of newly elected President Mohamed Mursi, and is to be sworn in with other cabinet officers on Thursday.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, who had himself been a little known technocrat in the irrigation ministry until tapped by Mursi, formed the cabinet with career bureaucrats and at least three Islamist politicians, including the education minister.

The first permanent government since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year gives the once-banned Brotherhood, a powerful influence in Egypt, and Kandil's decisions have faced opposition from non-Islamists who wanted a more inclusive government. .

Although the judiciary, like most government offices during the Mubarak-era, was considered corrupt, many judges, including Mekky, gained public respect for supporting verdicts that were not in the interests of Mubarak's ruling elite.

"I have accepted the post of minister of justice in the new cabinet," Mekky, a deputy head of Egypt's appeal court, told Reuters.
"My main mission that I seek to achieve via this job is to promote social justice and independence of the judiciary system," he added.

Mekky had been among a group of judges who were vocal about cases of vote rigging, which had helped to keep Mubarak and his political supporters in power for 30 years.

Last month, Mekky showed his strong support for the new government by giving the legal justification for the recall of the Islamist-dominated parliament on several television talk shows.

Egypt's top constitutional court had ruled that the body was void days before the final round of the presidential vote. The then-ruling military council issued a decree to dissolve the elected legislative body.

New Ministers

Incumbents who kept their jobs in the new ministry included Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Saeed and Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr Kamel, both of them career government employees.

Also announced was the new interior minister, Ahmed Gamal el-Din, a career policeman, similar to those who held the job under Mubarak.

Mostafa Mussad, a member of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, was appointed education minister. Brotherhood member Tarek Wafik was appointed to run the housing ministry and another, Osama Yassin, was appointed youth minister.

The choice of defence minister was one of the few portfolios not announced on Wednesday. The post is held by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council and cabinet and military source said he is likely to remain.

The ministries of investment and oil, major economic portfolios, were given to top-level government employees.

Osama Saleh, the head of the state-owned General Authority for Investment, said he would be investment minister, and Osama Kamal, the head of the Egyptian Petrochemical Holding Co., said he had been appointed oil minister.

Facing a wave of criticism from non-Islamists, Kandil appeared to row back on a decision to appoint a hardline Salafi scholar as minister of religious endowments. Mohamed Ibrahim, the scholar, said this week he had been offered the job.

Egyptian newspapers have said Kandil himself has close links to the Brotherhood, although he has denied it.

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