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Egypt's highest court suspends work amid protests

December 02, 2012|By Jeffrey Fleishman
  • A demonstrator chants slogans as several thousand supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi surround the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo to prevent the judges from entering and ruling on the legitimacy of the nation's Islamist-dominated constituent assembly.
A demonstrator chants slogans as several thousand supporters of Egyptian… (Ahmad Hammad / Associated…)

CAIRO -- Egypt's highest court postponed ruling on a case against the constitutional assembly after Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi blocked judges Sunday from entering their chambers in an escalating struggle over the nation’s political charter.

Protesters rallied in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which was expected to rule on the legitimacy of the constitutional assembly in defiance of Morsi’s decree that the assembly was not subject to judicial oversight. The case has heightened the political divisions and created a backlash against judges connected to the deposed regime of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The judges announced the "suspension of court sessions until the time when they can continue their message and rulings without any psychological and material pressures," according to a statement released by the court.

TIMELINE: Revolution in Egypt

The protest against the court was the latest skirmish in a separation-of-powers battle over the nation's constitution. The assembly approved a rushed draft constitution on Friday to preempt a court decision that was expected to rule against the body. Morsi ordered that the proposed constitution be voted on in a national referendum on Dec. 15, essentially sidelining the court.

Opposition movements across the country have been protesting Morsi's power grab for more than a week, reviving the revolutionary fervor that brought down Mubarak in February 2011. The opposition says Morsi, who was elected in June, has made a sham of democracy and that the constitution raises the prospect that Islamic law could jeopardize civil rights.

Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood have stressed that the president'’s expanded powers were necessary to blunt attempts by Mubarak-era courts from derailing Egypt’s political transition. If the constitution is passed, a new parliament -- the court dissolved an earlier Islamist-led legislature in April -- will be voted in early next year.

The Ahram Online news website reported that the constitutional court blamed Morsi and Islamists for the "lies" in a smear campaign to "taint the court’s image." The court added that it was operating in a "climate filled with hatred."

PHOTOS: Pro-Morsi protests in Cairo

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jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

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