I had never previously set foot in a courtroom anywhere in the world, despite possessing two virtually unused law degrees in pristine condition, which are available to the highest bidder. (This is, I admit, rather like being a bank robber who has never been to a bank: in my defence I saw the light early on and realised that I would rather pickle myself alive than qualify to be a solicitor, instead gravitating towards the decidedly courtroom-free human rights.)
The State Council (magliss al dowla) has all the requisite features of a legal institution, including: a vestibule with an enormously high ceiling useful for instilling awe of the law, Rocky-style steps useful for hosting protests and a couple of riot vans parked opposite useful for quashing nuisance over-ebullient protestors. On entering I was immediately struck by the fact that the building has an identical feel to that of that bastion to torturous bureaucracy, the mogama3 in Tahrir Square. Both institutions are characterised by a sort of silent hum of energy and movement which feels something like watching leaves dancing in the wind through a window: chaotic, busy and distant.
On my way upstairs I caught a glimpse of an empty courtroom whose door had been left ajar, and sad to say but the sight of the polished wood made my chest contract with excitement in the way it does when I receive emails from attractive book-reading men whose acquaintance I have just made. The effect is as if someone has just injected a liquid dose of possibility into my left ventricle.
Waiting for the case to be heard was inevitably far duller, and the tedium was only made bearable by watching the apprehensive tête-à-têtes of the black-gowned defence lawyers who all appeared to be smoking three cigarettes at the same time. The tedium was broken abruptly by a small man bellowing MA7KAMAAAAA [equivalent of all rise] with a ferocity which made me hope that the poor love doesn’t have any as yet undiscovered hernias. After some minor commotion at the bench it was announced that the case I had come to see would be heard an hour later.
Back an hour later and we discovered a scrum of approximately fifty persons surrounding the bench, at the centre of which were the barely audible lawyers battling it out. It is at times like these that I curse my luck at being born short, not only because I couldn’t hear a bloody word, but because my face is at armpit level, forcing me to imbibe a rich pot pourri with emphasis on the pourri.
The case itself (which has been extensively reported elsewhere) can be summarised in the style of a man in a pub as follows: this judge bloke, he decides to write a book on blogging in the Arab world which is dead good innit, but unfortunately he allegedly ahem goes and nicks fifty pages from a report written by one of them human rights non governmental thingies, and when they say ere knock it off guv, he goes and accuses them of defamation and raises a case accusing them and twenty-one other websites of defaming him, and insulting religion and the president and whatnot, and accuses them of having suitcases of dollars cos they’re all spies innit, and basically the case is against the government because he wants the government to shutdown these websites
One of the best arguments was ironically put forward by the government lawyer, who pointed out the impossibility of blocking sites given the existence of proxy servers, meaning that in order to effectively block these sites the government would have to take the unthinkable step of completely shutting down access to the entire internet (kill me now). More exchanges followed which ended as abruptly as the session had begun, and five minutes later it was announced that the case would be yet again adjourned to the 5th May. It can only be hoped that the judges realise the stupidity of attempting to silence the internet.