Egyptians Cheer Judges' Decision To Protest Morsi Move

9:31 PM, Nov 28, 2012   |    comments
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CAIRO -- Egyptians angry over a decree that grants sweeping powers to the president cheered Wednesday the decision by judges to suspend work until the decree is lifted.

"It's a very nice move because we didn't expect the supreme judges of Egypt to move like this," said Maher Fouad, a retired pharmacist.

Judges with the high and lower courts of appeal said they will not return to work to protest the decree that gave Islamist President Mohammed Morsi nearly absolute powers, among them immunity from having his decisions subject to judicial review, state television reported.

A statement by the judges of the high appeals court, known as the Court of Cassation, described Morsi's decrees as an "unprecedented" assault on the judiciary and its principles that "defies belief." It said the decision to stop work at all its circuits was also unprecedented but justified by the "magnitude" of the crisis.

At least 200,000 protesters filled Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Tuesday to denounce the decree. The Muslim Brotherhood, backers of the Morsi presidency, said it would hold nationwide demonstrations in support of the decree on Saturday.

Mohamed El Mekkawi, a member of the foreign relations department in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said the work suspension is a "normal thing."

"We are in a transition period and in this transition period there are a lot of problems concerning a lot of people, points of views... so this influences how people will react," he said.

El Mekkawi said opposition to the decree is not about the decree itself, but about preventing the allies of ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak from hanging on to power.

"It's about the old regime wanting to return again and say 'Morsi cannot be president anymore,'" he said.

Some of Morsi's supporters say the president had to issue the decree to prevent the courts from trying to dissolve the nation's Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, which is drafting a new constitution that will call for some form of Islamic law.

The courts dissolved the first constituent assembly and the Islamist-dominated parliament in June based on legal arguments. Morsi's new decree guarantees the assembly will stay in place - outraging some who are displeased with the new draft constitution.

Members of the 100-member constitutional committee who opposed some of the Islamist demands walked out of the committee.

El Mekkawi said that the decree is "like you are throwing a stone in stale water," breaking the impasse over the drafting process.

Egyptian blogger Ghaly Shafik said the courts suspended their work because judges believe their interests are threatened. It doesn't mean the opposition forces and the judges are united, he said.

The judges, "said nothing during Mubarak's dictatorship, so why should I side with them now? They didn't turn into angels overnight, so I don't care about what they do," he said. "The only people who I trust are the people who took to the streets yesterday."

Clashes between some protesters and police continued Wednesday off Tahrir Square, near the U.S. Embassy. The liberal opposition has said it would not enter a dialogue with the president about the country's latest political crisis before Morsi rescinded his decrees. Activists planned another massive rally on Friday.

"What happened yesterday - this is the real revolution," said Fouad about Tuesday's protest against the decree and Morsi.

"We can't resolve this problem until we reach a boiling point," Fouad said. "But we don't want blood in the streets, but unfortunately I think there will be."

The constitutional court was due to rule Sunday on the legality of the lower chamber and the 100-member panel drafting a new constitution. The court denounced Morsi's claim that it was part of a "conspiracy" against him.

"The allegation that the (June) ruling was reached in complicity with others to bring down elected state institutions and consequently the state's collapse ... is incorrect and untrue," the constitutional court said in a statement read by its deputy chairman, Maher Sami, in a televised news conference.

"But what is most saddening for the court's judges came when the president of the republic joined, in a painful and cruel surprise, the continuing attacks against the constitutional court," it said.

Written By: Sarah Lynch, Special for USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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