Egyptian judge Ahmed el-Zend was sworn in as Egypt's new justice minister in Cairo on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Zend, who heads an elite group of Egyptian judges, replaced Mahfouz Saber, who quit earlier this month after saying sons of garbage collectors could not become judges. But Zend, a harsh critic of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, has also made a slew of controversial comments over the years.
Prior to his appointment as justice minister, Zend was head of the Egyptian Judge’s Club, an elite Egyptian social club, as well as head of the Cairo Court of Appeals. Zend has called for the full enactment of Shariah law in Egypt and said beheading, lashing and amputations of limbs should be the penalties for apostasy, fornication and theft, respectively, London newspaper the Daily Telegraph said.
Like Saber, Zend is also an advocate of granting judicial positions to the sons of judges and others of high birth, the Middle East Eye news organization said. “We will not stop appointing sons of judges, whether people like it or not. Sons of judges will be appointed every year, and there isn’t a power in Egypt that can stop this ‘holy march’ to the judiciary,” Zend said during a 2012 conference of the Egyptian Judges’ Club, according to a local newspaper.
Zend, 69, was born in a small village outside of Tanta, about 50 miles north of Cairo. He was the son of the village’s imam, who headed its agricultural association. Zen became a public prosecutor after graduating from university with a degree in Islamic law. He spent several years living and working in the United Arab Emirates as the head of the Sharia Courts in Ras al-Khaima and then as a legal adviser to the Crown Prince, Middle East Eye said.
Zend has routinely condemned the now-outlawed Brotherhood, Egypt's mainstream Islamist movement, which was removed from power in mid-2013. He is known as an outspoken supporter of the 2013 military coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, who has ties to the Brotherhood.
"We [judges], on the soil of this nation, are masters, while others are slaves. We will burn the heart of anyone who burns a judge's photograph,” Zend said last year during a TV interview about a Brotherhood protest in which images of some judges were burned.
Some Egyptians viewed Zend’s appointment as a strong statement against the opposition. Thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists have been jailed since Morsi’s ousting.