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Egypt justice minister resigns after protests

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki's move comes as Islamists seek to oust judges deemed to be foes of President Mohamed Morsi. A Cabinet reshuffle is planned.

April 21, 2013|By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times

CAIRO — Egypt's besieged justice minister has submitted his resignation after protests over the weekend by Islamists, who want to purge the courts of judges and lawyers perceived as political enemies of President Mohamed Morsi.

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki, who has wanted to quit his post for months, offered his latest resignation amid anger at the inability of Morsi's government to revive the nation's economy and ease political divisions. Morsi announced Saturday that he would soon reshuffle his Cabinet.

Mekki's move highlights the deeper leadership conundrum Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls the government, face in stemming criticism that Islamists are authoritative and lack the political instincts to solve Egypt's many crises. The president has attempted in recent weeks to reach out to the opposition, but his overtures have drawn skepticism.

Mekki stood against the corruption of toppled leader Hosni Mubarak and has since criticized Morsi's maneuvers to expand presidential powers, including last year's firing of Prosecutor-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud. Morsi has scaled back his authority but has refused to reinstate Mahmoud.

Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters Friday called for removing Mubarak-era judges. A number of court decisions, including a verdict that has delayed parliamentary elections, have frustrated Islamists.

The largely secular opposition, however, also has been pressing for Mekki to step aside, suggesting he has abandoned his reformist ideals.

"Since you assigned me to the Justice Ministry, your opponents have been pressing me to resign," Mekki wrote in his resignation letter to Morsi. He added that "under the slogan of 'purging the judiciary,' your supporters agreed on their demand to remove me. A consensus is achieved."

He told Morsi, "Now is the time to realize my wish of lifting this burden from my shoulders."

A Cabinet spokesman said Mekki would remain in his post until the Cabinet reshuffle, which is expected in coming days.

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