Top Egyptian Courts Suspend Work as Protests Continue

Posted November 28th, 2012 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of Egyptians continued their demonstrations against President Mohamed Morsi for a sixth day as at least three of Egypt's highest courts said they would suspend work in protest of his sweeping decrees.

In a move that could help resolve the political crisis, the assembly drafting a new constitution said it would complete work on a final draft later Wednesday. Three assembly members said a vote on the draft by the assembly is planned for Thursday.

Many liberals and other opponents of Mr. Morsi have in recent weeks ended participation in the assembly, which is dominated by Islamists. They say their voices are not being heard. A new constitution would override Mr. Morsi's current moves.

The Court of Cassation and two major appeals courts say they will go on strike until the Supreme Constitutional Court rules on the president's order granting himself immunity from judicial review or Mr. Morsi rescinds his edict.

Many of the country's courts already had stopped functioning due to individual strikes.

The constitutional court has accused the president of an unjustified attack on its independence. In a statement, the court rejected charges by Mr. Morsi it is working to bring down his government.

The president and the judicial branch have been in a political struggle for nearly a week over whether courts can review the president's powers. Tens of thousands of Egyptians turned out in Cairo's main square and around the country Tuesday, accusing the president of seeking dictatorial powers.

Mr. Morsi granted himself new powers in a November 22 decree that bars the judiciary from challenging his decisions. He says the decrees are designed to protect state institutions.

Egypt's Islamist president later promised the Supreme Judicial Council he will restrict his newly self-granted powers to “sovereign matters.” But the vaguely worded statement did not define the issues over which he would have absolute power.

Opposition groups demand that Mr. Morsi cancel his decree.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which helped Mr. Morsi win election, said it will hold rallies in support of him on Saturday.

Police fired tear gas into a crowd of stone-throwing protesters Wednesday on a street near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Other demonstrators staged a sit-in at Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests during last year's ouster of Mr. Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.