Egyptian Plan Protests After President Grants Himself Sweeping Powers

Posted November 23rd, 2012 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi says he wants to move Egypt forward as a stable and safe nation, and says he does not want sole control of the country.

He made the remarks in a speech Friday in Cairo, as supporters and anti-government protesters rallied in different parts of the city. Mr. Morsi said he was not behind the dissolving of the lawmaking body, and he vowed to continue the nation's work on a new constitution. He said Egypt is on a path to freedom and democracy.

His remarks come a day after he put himself above oversight and declared that his decisions cannot be appealed by the courts or any other authority.

In reponse, opposition supporters gathered to demonstrate in Cairo's Tahrir Square and set fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices in several other cities, including Suez, Port Said, and Ismailia.

Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradai, who says Mr. Morsi has declared himself a “new pharaoh,” is expected to attend the Cairo protests. The liberal politician and former chief of the U.N. nuclear energy agency says Mr. Morsi has usurped all state powers and warned that there could be dire consequences.

President Morsi's spokesman announced the decree Thursday, citing a need to “protect the revolution.” Opposition members have called the move illegal.

The decree also bars Egypt's judiciary from dissolving the upper house of parliament and an assembly drafting a new constitution — two bodies dominated by Mr. Morsi's Islamist allies.

In addition, Mr. Morsi has ordered retrials of former officials who used violence in efforts to suppress last year's popular revolution against longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Morsi's supporters say his decree was long overdue.

The president's action comes after he received international praise for mediating a Gaze cease-fire.

Egyptian courts have been examining cases demanding the dissolution of both assemblies. But Mr. Morsi's decree effectively neutralizes the judiciary system in favor of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

The announced retrials for those suspected of involvement in the killings of protesters during the 2011 uprising, could include a retrial of former president Hosni Mubarak. The ousted leader was sentenced to life in prison in June for failing to stop the killings. But he avoided convictions on more serious offenses of corruption and ordering the deadly crackdown, angering many Egyptians.

Other Mubarak-era officials and security personnel also have been acquitted on charges of killing protesters, prompting critics to accuse the top government prosecutor of mishandling the cases. In his decree Thursday, Mr. Morsi fired that prosecutor, Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud, a Mubarak appointee who had been in the post for many years. The decree retroactively limited Mahmoud's term to four years, bringing it to an immediate end.

President Morsi had tried to fire Mahmoud last month but was blocked by the courts. He named Talat Abdullah as the government's new general prosecutor.