Egypt Court Delays Hearing on Constution Amid Protests
A Cairo court delayed until tomorrow decisions in politically charged cases dealing with the disbanding of the panel drafting a new constitution and a decree giving the military sweeping powers at the expense of the presidency.
The delay extended a case in which supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood chanted against the generals who had ruled Egypt after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, spotlighting the political tug-of- war that continues two weeks after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was sworn in as the country’s first democratically elected civilian leader.
The administrative court, headed by Judge Abdel-Salam El- Naggar, said yesterday that it would decide whether to recuse itself, as requested by lawyers for the Brotherhood, or to move ahead with the case, Sami Abdullah, the court’s secretary, told reporters. The court also referred to an advisory panel of judges a case that could lead to the disbanding of the parliament’s upper house, Abdullah said.
The lower house had already been dissolved following an order by the constitutional court last month. Referred to the same panel was a decision by Mursi to reinstate the legislature.
During the session, demonstrators chanted “Down with military rule” and “Field Marshal, speak the truth,” a reference to army chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. With riot police and protesters massed outside, El-Naggar adjourned the session then relocated it to another courtroom, which was closed to the public as Brotherhood supporters pounded on the doors.
The protest underscored the political tensions in Egypt after Mursi, the Brotherhood’s candidate, was sworn in as president following his election win. Mursi is struggling to shore up his authority against challenges from the judiciary and from the country’s senior generals.
The hearing focused on the legality of the process by which the 100-member constitutional panel was elected. Secular politicians have complained it was skewed in favor of the Islamists, like a previous version of the panel that was abolished by court order.
A verdict dissolving the panel would allow the army to appoint a new one, under the expanded powers the generals awarded themselves before they formally handed over to Mursi last month.
That decree is also the subject of a court challenge, while another case could dissolve the upper house of parliament. The lower chamber was disbanded last month by a court order enforced by the military council.
Mursi challenged that verdict by reconvening parliament last week, an effort curtailed by a rebuke from the constitutional court. He also backed the constitution committee this week by ratifying the law under which it was set up.
“People will not accept a constitution imposed on them and will not accept a pre-written one,” Essam El-Erian, the deputy head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper. “Conspiracies against the parliament will amount to nothing, and so will the conspiracies against the constitution-writing panel and the president himself.”
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