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Egypt's highest court suspends work

Dec. 2, 2012 at 9:03 PM   |   Comments

CAIRO, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court judges suspended their work Sunday, saying protesters blocked them from entering the courthouse.

The judges said in a statement that they had encountered an "abhorrent scene of shame and disgrace" and called the situation "a dark black day in the history of the Egyptian judiciary," The New York Times reported.

The incident means a delay in the judges' much-awaited ruling on the legitimacy of the Islamist-led legislative assembly that drafted a new constitution last week. President Mohamed Morsi announced Saturday Egyptians would vote on the new charter Dec. 15.

The BBC reported the proposed constitution would enshrine Sharia law as the primary source of legislation. Morsi's opponents say it would violate basic freedoms.

The Times said the judges described crowds "closing the entrances of the roads to the gates, climbing the fences, chanting slogans denouncing judges and inciting the people against them."

They said the "threat of harm" prevented them from entering the building and so they were suspending the court's sessions until they could resume their work without "psychological and physical pressures."

The Islamist protesters responded by saying the judges, appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak, were blowing the episode out of proportion as an excuse for going on strike, the Times said. A crowd of a few hundred people was relatively reserved in its actions, the newspaper noted.

On Nov. 22, Morsi issued a decree putting his orders out of reach of judicial review. Egyptian courts had previously dissolved Parliament and an earlier Constitutional Assembly and a similar ruling on the latest group of lawmakers charged with rewriting the constitution would waylay the government transition, the Times said.

Leaders of the largest association of judges, known as the Judges Club, has called for a nationwide judges' strike and Sunday said its members would not perform their usual roles as election supervisors for the Dec. 15 constitutional referendum.

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