24 Nov 2012

Egypt’s judges condemn new sweeping powers for Mursi

Egypt’s head judges say a decree granting President Mohamed Mursi extensive control is an “unprecedented attack” on the independence of the judiciary, as protests on the streets continue.

Egypt‘s President Mohamed Mursi passed a decree on Thursday that puts his position above that of the law.

Protests broke out after the decree and continued into Saturday, as youths clashed with police [see video above]. Protesters stormed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria on Friday, and 300 protesters were injured.

At an emergency meeting called to discuss the decree, the Supreme Judicial Council urged the president to “distance this decree from everything that violates the judicial authority”, the state news agency reported.

Judges in the Egyptian city of Alexandria went on strike on Saturday in protest against the decision and said work would be suspended until the decree was reversed.

President Mursi’s new powers allow him to replace the prosecutor general – a holdover from the Mubarak era, who the new president had previously tried to replace in October, only to kick up a storm of protest from the judiciary, which said he had exceeded his authorities.

Egypt’s domestic crisis comes days after President Mursi’s administration won international praise for mediating an end to the eight-day war between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

Read more: Egypt’s President Mursi called to respect democratic process

The decree marks an effort by the Mursi administration to consolidate its influence after it successfully sidelined Mubarak-era generals in August.

It also reflects the Muslim Brotherhood’s suspicion towards some sections of the judiciary that is largely unreformed from Mubarak’s days: the decree effectively guards the decisions taken by Mursi from judicial review until a new parliament is elected in a vote expected to take place early next year.

Leftist, liberal and socialist parties have called for an open-ended sit-in with the aim of “toppling” the decree which has also drawn statements of concern from the United States and the European Union.

Calling the decree “fascist and despotic”, President Mursi’s critics called for a big protest on Tuesday against a move they say has revealed the autocratic impulses of a man who was jailed under Mubarak, who outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We are facing a historic moment in which we either complete our revolution or we abandon it to become prey for a group that has put its narrow party interests above the national interest,” the liberal Dustour Party said in a statement.