CAIRO – Egyptian judges Saturday slammed a decree by President Mohamed Morsi granting him sweeping powers as “an unprecedented attack” on the judiciary, and courts across two provinces announced a strike.
The constitutional declaration is “an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings,” the Supreme Judicial Council said after an emergency meeting.
The council, which handles administrative affairs and judicial appointments, called on the president to remove “anything that touches the judiciary” from the declaration.
Meanwhile, the Judges Club of Alexandria announced “the suspension of work in all courts and prosecution administrations in the provinces of Alexandria and Beheira.”
The Alexandria judges “will accept nothing less than the cancelation of (Morsi’s decree),” which violates the principle of separation of power, club chief Mohammed Ezzat Al-Agwa said.
In Cairo, a general assembly of judges was holding emergency talks to mull a response to the presidential decree. Morsi’s declaration – which acts as a temporary charter – allows him to issue any law or decree “to protect the revolution” that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year, with no decision or law subject to challenge in court. He also sacked prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmud, which had been a key demand of protesters.
A statement by some 20 “independent judges” said that while some of the decisions taken by the president were a response to popular demands, they were issued “at the expense of freedom and democracy.”
Morsi also ordered the reopening of investigations into the deaths of some 850 protesters during the 2011 uprising, and hundreds more since.
In a statement, new prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah said that new “revolutionary courts” would be set up and could see Mubarak, his sons and his top security chiefs retried “should there be new evidence.”
Mubarak and his interior minister were sentenced to life over the killing of the protesters, but six security chiefs were acquitted in the same case sparking nationwide outrage.
The ousted president’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were acquitted on corruption charges but are facing new fraud charges.
Morsi’s assumption of sweeping powers is seen as a blow to the pro-democracy movement that ousted Mubarak, but his backers say his move will cut back a turbulent and seemingly endless transition to democracy.
Meanwhile, anti-riot police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse protesters camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as Western governments voiced growing concern over Morsi’s assumption of sweeping powers.
A hard core of opposition activists had spent the night in the iconic protest hub – epicenter of the popular uprising that toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak last year – erecting some 30 tents.
But when more demonstrators attempted to join them in the morning, police responded with volleys of tear gas forcing them to retreat into surrounding streets.
Opposition-led protests were held in most of Egypt’s major cities Friday sparking violent clashes in the canal city of Suez and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where offices of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, which backed Morsi for the presidency, were torched.
The mainly secular liberal activists voiced determination to keep up the momentum of their protests against Morsi’s decree. – Agencies