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Massive Protests In Egypt Over Controversial Presidential Decree


Tens of thousands took to Egyptian streets including that of capital Cairo, on Tuesday to protest against President Mohammed Mursi's recent constitutional decree that gave him sweeping powers and made his decisions as well as policies immune to legal challenges.

The day's largest Opposition rally was staged in Cairo's iconic Tahrir square, the nerve center of last year's popular uprising that eventually toppled autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Media reports citing Opposition leaders indicated that at least 200,000 people took part in the rally, one of the largest mobilizations against Islamist President Mursi since he assumed office in June last.

Protesters waving Egyptian flags chanted anti-Mursi slogans during the demonstration in which journalists, lawyers, pro-democracy activists as well as senior Opposition figures like IAEA former Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa took part.

Rally participants accused Mursi as well as his parent organization Muslim Brotherhood of betraying the Egyptian revolution by attempting to monopolize power after their recent election victory. They fear that Mursi's latest move could endanger gains of the popular uprising.

Although the rally at Tahrir Square was relatively peaceful, Opposition activists clashed with security forces guarding the nearby U.S. Embassy earlier in the day. Local media reported that one man died of heart attack during the confrontation outside the Embassy.

Mursi's opponents staged similar protests in other Egyptian towns and cities on Tuesday. Some of the Opposition demonstrations reportedly ended in clashes with Mursi supporters.

There were also reports about Opposition activists attacking and vandalizing offices of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in several cities and towns. Although the Brotherhood had earlier planned to hold its own rallies supporting Mursi on Tuesday, it later dropped the idea to avoid "public tension."

Egypt has been witnessing violent protests since Mursi issued the controversial declaration last Thursday, in which more than 60 people were injured. Until Tuesday, the only fatality in the protests was a Brotherhood member who was killed on Sunday after the party's headquarters in the Nile Delta town of Damanhour was attacked by anti-Mursi protesters.

Mursi's disputed decree stated that all decisions, laws and declarations passed by the President, until a new Constitution is in place by mid-February, "are final and not subject to appeal" by any authority, including the judiciary.

It also stated that the Islamist-dominated panel engaged in drafting a new Constitution as well as the Upper House of the country's Parliament cannot be dissolved by any authority, including the judiciary. Incidentally, Egypt's Constitutional Court is set to rule on the issue on Sunday.

The country's Supreme Court had earlier called for dissolving the Parliament after finding that part of the parliamentary election was unconstitutional as political party members had contested seats reserved for independents.

In an effort to resolve the crisis sparked by his so-called constitutional decree, Mursi had held a five-hour meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council. He made it clear during the meeting that he would not withdraw the decree, but assured them that its scope would now be limited to "sovereign matters" designed to protect state institutions. The President also assured the Council that he had utmost respect for the judiciary.

Although the original decree ordered fresh investigations into crimes committed against protesters during last year's popular uprising as well as retrials of officials found guilty, the President told the Council on Monday that they would only occur "where new evidence appeared."

Nevertheless, the Judges Club, which represents all of the country's judges, rejected the President's arguments supporting his decree as "worthless," and decided to continue with the judges' strike that began last Saturday in protest against the controversial measure.

Mursi, leader of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood - was sworn in as Egypt's first civilian and freely-elected President on June 30, following the popular revolt that forced Mubarak to step down in February last year after handing over power to the country's military. Mubarak has since been convicted of complicity in the deaths of anti-government protesters and sentenced to life in prison.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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