Farid El Deeb: Egyptian lawyer who defended Mubarak dies of cancer aged 79

Over a 50-year career he defended prominent clients including former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons

Egyptian Lawyer Farid El Deeb headed of the defence team of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal, in 2013. AFP
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Farid El Deeb, one of Egypt’s most controversial defence lawyers, died on Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 79.

The lawyer's daughter, TV presenter Hanan El Deeb, broke the news of his death on social media.

A funeral procession for El Deeb took place at Islamic Cairo’s Sayeda Zeinab Mosque on Tuesday afternoon. He will be buried in his family’s cemetery in the 6 October district of Giza, his daughter said.

A divisive figure, El Deeb’s death was met with a mixed reaction on social media.

Over his 50-year career, he repeatedly defended prominent clients in cases of particular public interest.

Perhaps most famously, he defended Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons Alaa and Gamal and his longest-serving interior minister Habib El Adly, in two corruption cases after the 2011 popular uprising that ousted Mubarak after 30 years in power.

One of El Deeb’s other prominent cases was his defence in 1997 of Azzam Azzam, an Israeli citizen convicted of spying on Egypt. El Deeb’s decision to take on the case, which he ultimately lost, was widely criticised by many of his peers at the time.

A group of 12 lawyers signed a letter sent to El Deeb before Azzam’s trial, calling him a traitor to Egypt.

El Deeb again made headlines this year when he announced his intention to appeal the death sentence of Mohamed Adel, a university student who in June gruesomely murdered his classmate Nayera Ashraf in an incident that shook the entire country after footage of the fatal stabbing was widely shared on social media.

His decision to defend Adel was widely denounced by women’s rights groups.

Among his other clients were Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, celebrities Youssra and Fifi Abdou and exiled politician Ayman Nour, who was imprisoned for four years after running against Mubarak in a 2005 presidential election that was widely deemed corrupt.

El Deeb was diagnosed with leukaemia more than two years ago and his condition quickly deteriorated.

He reportedly told the presiding judge during his last case, in which he defended businessman Hassan Rateb, who was in April sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling antiquities, that it would be his last because of his declining health.

Called a self-serving opportunist by some and a brilliant lawyer by others, El Deeb’s influence on Egypt cannot be denied either way.

Updated: October 25, 2022, 3:01 PM