Egyptians Protest Draft Constitution, State Court On Strike

Posted November 30th, 2012 at 11:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of Egyptians demonstrated Friday against a draft constitution approved by an Islamist panel.

Protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for an eighth straight day of demonstrations against President Mohamed Morsi and the draft constitution set to to for a vote in a nationwide referendum. Massive protests also took place in the coastal city of Alexandria.

In another development Friday, state courts joined a strike by members of the judiciary to protest a decree giving President Morsi extraordinary powers. State court judges announced a suspension of work, except in urgent cases, demanding a repeal of the decree that puts the president above judiciary oversight.

President Morsi has been waging a battle with Egypt's judges, many of whom are opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members dominate Egypt's parliament. The president is a former member of the once-banned group.

A constitutional panel, boycotted by several Christian and liberal members, retained the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislation. The group hastily rushed through the approval of the 234 articles of a draft constitution in a meeting that lasted from Thursday afternoon until early Friday.

The assembly moved up the vote in order to pass the draft before Sunday, when Egypt's highest judicial power is expected to rule on whether to dissolve the panel.

Over the past few days, about 30 liberal and Christian members pulled out of the panel to protest what they call the hijacking of the process by Islamists loyal to President Morsi.

The Egyptian leader caused a political uproar last week when he granted himself sweeping new powers that bar the judiciary from challenging his decisions. Mr. Morsi told state television Thursday the decree will end immediately after people vote on the constitution.

Egyptian protesters are angered by the president's power grab and are accusing him of acting like a dictator. Some of them note that he is not the president of all Egyptians as he said he would be. One of them is Cairo resident Soha Rabieh Abdel Naguib.

President Morsi announced his decree a day after earning international praise for negotiating a truce between Israel and Hamas leaders of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The United States has declined to immediately criticize Mr. Morsi's actions or the draft constitution. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday that it is up to the Egyptian people to decide on whether to vote on it or the current draft or work toward a new one.

Mr. Morsi is expected to put the draft constitution to a public referendum as early as mid-December.

At least two people have been killed and hundreds injured in Egypt's nationwide demonstrations.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called a rival nationwide demonstration Saturday in support of Mr. Morsi.