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Egyptian Courts on Strike, Clashes Near US Embassy, in Protest Against President's Constitutional Declaration

Tahrir Square protest, November 27, 2012 Clashes near US Embassy, Cairo, Egypt


Unprecedented judicial strike, all out strike in courts of all levels

Ahmed Aboul Enein

The Daily News, November 28, 2012

Egypt’s highest court has announced an open-ended strike in response to President Mohamed Morsy’s constitutional declaration.

The Cassation Court, which sits atop of the judicial hierarchy, held a general assembly meeting Wednesday and voted 270 to 19 to suspend work until Morsy rescinds his decree.

The court’s chairman, Mohamed Motaz Motwaly, is also the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.

The council met Morsy on Monday to discuss the decree after Egypt’s judges held a general assembly meeting of the national Judge’s Club and opposed his declaration.

Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said after the meeting that the judges had been convinced to agree to the decree, as long as only “acts of sovereignty” were above judicial review.

Members of the council refuted Ali’s claims at the time and said they had not reached consensus with the president and are still demanding he revoke his decree. Today’s vote at the Cassation Court affirms this.

The Cassation Court is joined in the strike by Egypt’s eight appeals courts in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, Mansoura, Ismailia, Beni Suef, Assiut and Qena. The country’s 26 primary courts, the courts of limited jurisdiction and most prosecution offices, are also striking, a representative of the Judges’ Club said.

The constitutional declaration protects presidential decisions from judicial review. It also makes the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the new constitution and the Shura Council, parliament’s lower house, impervious to dissolution by courts.

The decree has also allowed Morsy to dismiss former Prosecution General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and replace him with Tala’at Abdallah, who Morsy chose unilaterally.

Judges see the decree as an attack on the independence of the judiciary but the president says it was necessary in order to protect the revolution from corrupt individuals in the judiciary.

With the Cassation, appeals, primary and limited jurisdiction courts on strike, the entire ordinary judiciary of Egypt has come to a standstill.

Egypt has a dual judicial system of ordinary and administrative courts.

The State Council, which includes the Supreme Administrative Court, the administrative judiciary courts and all lower administrative courts, said it was also against the decree but that its courts would not go on strike.

The administrative courts are the ones that will handle any cases against the decree and as such will continue to operate.

The Supreme Constitutional Court, a special court tasked with ruling on the constitutionality of laws, released a statement on Wednesday rejecting the decree, saying it was a campaign against the court led by President Morsy.

All civilian courts have now announced their rejection of the decree in one way or another.

The Supreme State Security Court and other state security courts and prosecution offices are operating as usual, however.

The military judiciary has made no comment on the decree. Both state security and military courts are unaffected by the constitutional decree and are not represented in the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.

Clashes continue in Cairo's Simon Bolivar Square

Egypt Independent Wed, 28/11/2012 - 23:18

Clashes between protesters and security forces broke out again Wednesday evening in Simon Bolivar Square, near the US Embassy in Cairo and Tahrir Square.

The demonstrators hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at security personnel, who responded by firing teargas canisters, eyewitnesses told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

State-run Al-Ahram newspaper quoted a doctor in a field hospital near the Mugamma in Tahrir as saying he performed first aid on a female protester whose legs were injured after she was run over by a vehicle.

Her relatives then took her to a hospital, and the number of protesters increased amid rumors that she had passed away, the doctor told Al-Ahram.

The privately-owned Sada al-Balad news website reported that protesters set ablaze one police vehicle, and that police forces extinguished the fire before it spread.

PM: Constitutional declaration issued to save Egypt

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil on Wednesday said Mohamed Morsy’s 22 November constitutional declaration was made to save Egypt and preserve state institutions, such as the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly, in addition to the presidential elections.

He told Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr that the declaration does not marginalize the judiciary, adding that, “Calling President Morsy a dictator is inappropriate.”

“Voting on the constitution will end the crisis, and the president’s legislative powers will move to the Shura Council,” he said, pointing out that certain ministers are clarifying the constitutional declaration for the political forces.

“The president said he would not go back on the constitutional declaration,” Qandil said. “The elected president must be removed by elections, not demonstrations.”

“The police are for the first time protecting the peaceful demonstrators,” he added, “but it becomes difficult when thugs infiltrate.”

“The state institutions, the president, the prime minister and the ministers are constantly criticized,” he continued. “I do not mind, for I am concentrating on the development of the country.”

Morsy held a secret meeting on Wednesday with Qandil and the interior minister, which state-run Al-Ahram newspaper’s website said lasted for two hours and discussed the current crisis.

On the same day, the Cabinet issued a statement saying accusations of treason would only deepen the rift between citizens and calling on political forces to place the interest of the nation above personal desires.

The statement praised the peaceful demonstrations and called on all forces to resort to dialogue.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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