Egyptian protesters clash with security forces near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Wednesday.(Photo: Khalil Hamra, AP)
CAIRO -- Egyptians angry over a decree that grants sweeping powers to
the president cheered Wednesday the decision by judges to suspend work
until the decree is lifted.
"It's a very nice move because we
didn't expect the supreme judges of Egypt to move like this," said Maher
Fouad, a retired pharmacist.
Judges with the high and lower
courts of appeal said they will not return to work to protest the decree
that gave Islamist President Mohammed Morsi nearly absolute powers,
among them immunity from having his decisions subject to judicial
review, state television reported.
A statement by the judges of
the high appeals court, known as the Court of Cassation, described
Morsi's decrees as an "unprecedented" assault on the judiciary and its
principles that "defies belief." It said the decision to stop work at
all its circuits was also unprecedented but justified by the "magnitude"
of the crisis.
At least 200,000 protesters filled Cairo's central
Tahrir Square on Tuesday to denounce the decree. The Muslim
Brotherhood, backers of the Morsi presidency, said it would hold
nationwide demonstrations in support of the decree on Saturday.
El Mekkawi, a member of the foreign relations department in the Muslim
Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said the work suspension is a
"We are in a transition period and in this
transition period there are a lot of problems concerning a lot of
people, points of views... so this influences how people will react," he
El Mekkawi said opposition to the decree is not about the
decree itself, but about preventing the allies of ousted dictator Hosni
Mubarak from hanging on to power.
"It's about the old regime wanting to return again and say 'Morsi cannot be president anymore,'" he said.
of Morsi's supporters say the president had to issue the decree to
prevent the courts from trying to dissolve the nation's
Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, which is drafting a new
constitution that will call for some form of Islamic law.
courts dissolved the first constituent assembly and the
Islamist-dominated parliament in June based on legal arguments. Morsi's
new decree guarantees the assembly will stay in place - outraging some
who are displeased with the new draft constitution.
Members of the 100-member constitutional committee who opposed some of the Islamist demands walked out of the committee.
Mekkawi said that the decree is "like you are throwing a stone in stale
water," breaking the impasse over the drafting process.
blogger Ghaly Shafik said the courts suspended their work because judges
believe their interests are threatened. It doesn't mean the opposition
forces and the judges are united, he said.
The judges, "said
nothing during Mubarak's dictatorship, so why should I side with them
now? They didn't turn into angels overnight, so I don't care about what
they do," he said. "The only people who I trust are the people who took
to the streets yesterday."
Clashes between some protesters and
police continued Wednesday off Tahrir Square, near the U.S. Embassy. The
liberal opposition has said it would not enter a dialogue with the
president about the country's latest political crisis before Morsi
rescinded his decrees. Activists planned another massive rally on
"What happened yesterday - this is the real revolution," said Fouad about Tuesday's protest against the decree and Morsi.
can't resolve this problem until we reach a boiling point," Fouad said.
"But we don't want blood in the streets, but unfortunately I think
there will be."
The constitutional court was due to rule Sunday on
the legality of the lower chamber and the 100-member panel drafting a
new constitution. The court denounced Morsi's claim that it was part of a
"conspiracy" against him.
"The allegation that the (June) ruling
was reached in complicity with others to bring down elected state
institutions and consequently the state's collapse ... is incorrect and
untrue," the constitutional court said in a statement read by its deputy
chairman, Maher Sami, in a televised news conference.
is most saddening for the court's judges came when the president of the
republic joined, in a painful and cruel surprise, the continuing attacks
against the constitutional court," it said.