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Egypt appoints controversial new justice minister

Ahmed el-Zind has been characterised in past as a staunch opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptian walk past a huge poster of Egypt's president Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi outside the High Court in downtown Cairo (AFP)

Egypt has appointed a new justice minister following the resignation of his predecessor over accusations of elitism.

Ahmed el-Zind, head of the influential Egyptian Judges Club – a social club for judges founded in 1839, was appointed to the position on Wednesday.

Previous justice minister Mahfouz Saber resigned from the position after declaring that the sons of garbage collectors could not become judges, stirring outrage across Egypt after he refused to apologise for the remarks.

Zind is known for his strong opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and frequently came into conflict with the government of Mohamed Morsi's Brotherhood-linked Freedom and Justice Party.

In response to criticism from Morsi over the judiciary's decision to acquit former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons on corruption charges in 2012, he delivered a withering put down of the Brotherhood.

“You did not inherit Egypt from your mothers and fathers,” he said. “We will never allow this legislature to be a thorn in Egypt’s side.”

Zind has also been known for his hawkish approach to Egypt's dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia over the latter's plans to construct a dam across the Nile.

“I call upon all Egyptians, from all the camps, to unite around Egypt. We must unite. The politicians have begun to use all political means to save us from the danger [of the Ethiopian dam], but I call upon our heroic armed forces to be fully prepared. Anybody who cuts us off from our water supply and leaves us thirsty – we must not let him taste life,” he said.

Zend's appointment as justice minister provoked an alarmed backlash on Twitter:

Egypt's Justice Ministry has been criticised for delivering death sentences to hundreds of Egyptians following the overthrow of the Morsi government in a military coup in 2013.

On Tuesday the ministery slammed criticism of death penalties handed down to 122 people, including ousted president Mohamed Morsi, as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

"The countries that commented on the verdicts have violated all international treaties that stipulate respecting the sovereignty of states and non-interference in internal affairs," the ministry said in statement.

"We categorically reject all statements made in reference to the recent verdicts," the ministry added.

"The Egyptian government and its institutions have refrained from commenting on the court verdicts pursuant to the principle of separation of powers which is stipulated in the constitution," the ministry said.