27 November 2012

Egypt Crisis - Mohammed Mursi Meets Top Judges

Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi is meeting senior judges in an effort to settle a mounting crisis over the extent of his powers.

A decree giving him sweeping new powers was announced on Thursday, sparking violent protests nationwide and a sharp drop in the Egyptian stock market.

Mr Mursi said on Sunday the decree was temporary and not intended to concentrate power in his hands.

The president expressed confidence that a solution would be found.

"President Mursi is very optimistic that Egyptians will overcome this challenge as they have overcome other challenges", spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters ahead of Monday's meeting with members of the Supreme Judicial Council.

The president said earlier he hoped to reach consensus on a new constitution currently being drafted, he added, and the decree was intended to prevent democratically-elected bodies from being undermined.

Mediation efforts

The Judges' Club, which represents judges throughout the country, called for a nationwide strike to protest against the decree over the weekend.

The journalists' union also rejected the president's decree and threatened to go on strike.

But the top judicial body, the Supreme Judicial Council, appeared not to reject the decree outright, saying it should only apply to "sovereign matters", and urged judges to return to work.

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky has begun efforts to mediate between the president and the judges.

The minister said he himself had some reservations about the president's decree, Reuters reported. When asked by reporters on Monday about the council's insistence that the decree be limited to sovereign matters, he said: "I believe President Mohammed Mursi wants that."

A possible way out of the crisis would be for a memorandum or amendment defining the decree's limits, reports said.

Several prominent opposition leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed elBaradei, have said they will not engage in dialogue with the president until he rescinds the measure, known as the constitutional declaration.

Meanwhile a Cairo administrative court has said it will hold a first hearing on 4 December in a case brought by lawyers and activists against the decree.

Teenager dies

According to President Mursi's decree, no authority can revoke presidential decisions.

There is a bar on judges dissolving the assembly, which is drawing up a new constitution. The president is also authorised to take any measures to preserve the revolution, national unity or safeguard national security.

The decree has sparked violent protests in Cairo and across the country since it was announced.

On Sunday teenager Islam Fathy Massoud died and 60 people were injured in clashes in the Nile Delta town of Damanhour between the president's supporters and opponents.

His funeral was held on Monday, while in Cairo thousands of people marched through Tahrir square for the funeral of another young activist killed in recent clashes with police.

Egypt's stock market, which had seen a fall of almost 10% on Sunday, recovered some ground on Monday morning.

Large demonstrations are planned by supporters and opponents of Mr Mursi on Tuesday.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a million-man march to take place outside Cairo University.

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