CAIRO – An Egyptian court will next week examine the legality of a decree by which President Mohamed Morsi granted himself sweeping powers, a move that triggered deadly unrest, an official said Monday.
Abdel Meguid Al-Moqannen, the deputy chief of the State Council, Egypt’s highest administrative body, said more than 12 lawsuits had been filed against the decree, the official MENA news agency reported.
The case would be heard on December 4.
The announcement came as Morsi met with senior judges for talks in a bid to defuse the crisis that erupted after he assumed sweeping new powers last Thursday.
Egypt’s justice minister said that a resolution was “imminent.” Ahmed Mekki spoke to reporters shortly before Morsi met members of the Supreme Judiciary Council to discuss the decree.
The talks, on the eve of rival rallies which threaten to deepen the country’s divisions, come a day after a member of his party was killed in clashes outside its offices in the Nile Delta town of Damanhour.
Several offices belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) have also been torched.
In the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, hundreds turned out for the burial of Muslim Brotherhood member Islam Fathi Mohammed who was killed in clashes outside the Islamist movement’s offices.
In Cairo, thousands marched at the funeral procession of Gaber Salah, a member of the April 6 movement known by his nickname “Jika”, who was critically injured in clashes near Cairo’s Tahrir Square last week and died overnight.
Morsi’s declaration – which allows him to issue decisions and laws unchallenged on a temporary basis – sparked a wave of nationwide demonstrations.
Some courts have suspended work in protest, while the journalists’ union has decided in principle to go on strike.
A sit-in by Morsi opponents is being held in the iconic Tahrir Square at the heart of last’s year Arab Spring uprising that ousted the regime of veteran dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Small groups of protesters spent Sunday night in the square, where they have erected 30 tents since Friday. “Muslim Brotherhood, keep out,” reads a banner strung up nearby.
The decree states that Morsi can issue “any decision or measure to protect the revolution,” which are final and not subject to appeal, leading to charges that he is taking on dictatorial powers.
Key opposition figure Mohamed El-Baradei ruled out any compromise with “a president who is imposing a dictatorship,” but Mekki said curbs on the widened powers could be discussed.
An amendment could be added to specify that “the irrevocable decisions of the president apply only to issues related to his sovereign powers and not administrative decisions,” the justice minister said, quoted by MENA.
On Sunday, Morsi stressed the “temporary nature” of the measures, valid only until a new constitution is adopted and elections held, and which “are not meant to concentrate power” but devolve it to a democratically-elected parliament.
The measures were also “deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as the other crimes during the previous regime and during the transitional period.”
Mubarak was sentenced to life, along with his interior minister, over the killing of protesters in last year’s uprising, in which some 850 activists were killed.
Six security chiefs were acquitted in the same case, sparking outrage.
New investigations have been ordered into the deaths, and Egypt’s new prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah said “revolutionary courts” would be set up.
The presidency also Sunday stressed its commitment to engaging all political forces in dialogue “to reach a national consensus on the constitution, which will be the cornerstone of Egyptian modern institutions”. – Agencies