Egypt judges to return amid fresh protests

Dec. 10, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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CAIRO, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Egyptian judges will end their strike Monday now that President Mohamed Morsi voided a decree that made his powers immune to judicial review, an official said.

But the opposition said Morsi must also cancel a constitutional referendum planned for Saturday, with opposition groups calling for fresh protests and a boycott of the election to undermine the vote as thousands of demonstrators streamed toward the presidential palace in Cairo for a fifth night.

The director of the Judicial Inspection Department told al-Jazeera Sunday the judges -- who went on strike after Morsi gave himself sweeping powers Nov. 22, putting him above judicial review and thus removing the last check on his authority -- would announce Monday they would return to the bench, the independent Egyptian news website reported.

A new decree Morsi issued Saturday gave only to his "constitutional declarations" immunity from judicial scrutiny.

But by withdrawing much of his earlier decree, Morsi now exposes the 236-article draft constitution to the Supreme Constitutional Court's judgment, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The court could convene and decide to block the new constitution and its referendum, the U.S. business newspaper said.

Opposition leaders said they rejected the referendum and "do not recognize the draft constitution because it does not represent the Egyptian people," Sameh Ashour, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front political coalition, was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying.

The opposition says the constitution also disregards the rights of women and ignores personal freedoms.

Ashour told The New York Times holding a referendum on the charter would lead to "more division and sedition."

Continuing to schedule the vote "in a state of seething and chaos" amounted to "a reckless and flagrant absence of responsibility, risking driving the country into violent confrontations that endanger its national security," he told the Times.

Anti-Morsi protests went on through the night near the presidential palace in Cairo, and major anti-Morsi demonstrations were called for at the palace again Tuesday and Friday.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the powerful Islamist organization Morsi once led, plan their own rallies Tuesday in Cairo, Alexandria and Assiut, 200 miles south of Cairo.

Morsi insisted the referendum would be held and was prepared to deploy the army to safeguard balloting Saturday, the Defense Ministry said on national television.

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