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Egypt's Appeal Court Judges Join Strike Against Disputed Presidential Decree

Egypt's Appeal Court Judges Join Strike Against Disputed Presidential Decree

Judges at Egypt's appeals courts on Wednesday joined a strike by their lower court colleagues protesting President Mohammed Mursi's recent constitutional decree that gave him sweeping powers and made his decisions as well as policies immune to legal challenges.

According to state television, judges at the Court of Cassation, the country's highest appeals court, decided at an emergency meeting to abstain from work until the presidential decree is withdrawn. Further, their colleagues at lower appeals court also announced their decision to stop work nationwide.

Mursi's controversial 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 Lower House of the country's Parliament cannot be dissolved by any authority, including the judiciary.

Notably, Egypt's Supreme Court had called for dissolution of the Parliament after ruling part of the parliamentary election unconstitutional as political party nominees contested from seats reserved for independents.

Incidentally, Egypt's Constitutional Court - which is not taking part in the strike - is set to rule on the issue on Sunday. Also, the Assembly drafting a new Constitution is expected to vote on a draft on Thursday. If the draft is adopted by the Assembly, it will be then put to a national referendum.

Senior judges had earlier questioned the clause in Mursi's decree that made his decisions immune to legal challenges. In an effort to resolve the crisis sparked by his disputed decree, Mursi had held a five-hour meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council on Tuesday.

Mursi made it clear during that meeting that he would not rescind 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.

But the judges who attended the meeting said later that they were not convinced by Mursi's explanation for issuing the decree. Subsequently, 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 lower court judges' strike that began last Saturday in protest against the measure.

Egypt has been witnessing violent protests since Mursi issued the declaration last Thursday, with his opponents attacking and vandalizing offices of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in several cities and towns.

At least two people have been killed and more than 60 injured since the protests began last week. Besides, anti-Mursi demonstrators continued a sit-in protest at the iconic Tahrir Square, the nerve center of last year's popular uprising that eventually toppled autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters accuse Mursi as well as the 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.

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties have called for a rally on Saturday in support of Mursi. They accuse the judiciary of having ties with the ousted regime and insist that Mursi requires sweeping powers to ensure that the objectives of the revolution is not undermined by any authority.

Mursi, leader of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) — 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 RTT Staff Writer

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