The biter bit

Last week I wrote about the plethora of “hesba” lawsuits in Egypt where busybodies of a religious disposition launch what, in effect, are private prosecutions against people whose behaviour they consider un-Islamic. 

Now, there’s an interesting new twist. The National reports that Naguib Gobraiel, a human rights lawyer, is bringing his own hesba case against Nabih el-Wahsh – regarded as Egypt’s most vexatious litigant – accusing him of ghawi shohra (“fame-seeking”).

“No one is immune from Nabih el-Wahsh’s bombardment of legal complaints and lawsuits, which have increased considerably lately,” Gobraiel told the paper. “This guy spares no one; he has been trying to drag famous people in all fields, including Muslim and Christian religious figures, to court.” 

Wahsh has reportedly initiated about 1,000 lawsuits during the last 10 years. He has twice sought to have Nawwal el-Saadawi, the novelist, divorced from her husband on religious grounds.
In another case, he sought to have seven TV series taken off the air during Ramadan “for violating the Islamic law and presenting ‘hot scenes’.”

Most of his cases are rejected before they come to court, but he has won a few: 

Mr el-Wahsh had a rare victory this year when he won a case in February that led to the stripping of Egyptian nationality of people married to Israelis. 

He estimated there were 30,000 such marriages, which he characterised as against Islamic law and a threat to national security. But the verdict was never implemented and now he is threatening to sue the interior minister, Habib el Adly, for failing to implement it.

Whether the ghawi shohra case against Wahsh will get anywhere remains to be seen (he could be fined if convicted), but Gobraiel says the aim is to stop him abusing the legal system.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 10 October 2009.