Egypt court cancels assembly ruling

Egypt court cancels assembly ruling

Egypt’s top court has postponed its ruling on the legitimacy of the nation’s Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, citing “administrative” reasons, officials said.

The announcement came as several thousand supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi surrounded the Supreme Constitutional Court to prevent the judges from entering the Nile-side building in Cairo.

The officials did not know whether a new date had been set for the ruling.

A ruling from the court – regardless of which way it goes – would be a direct challenge to Mr Morsi, who last month gave himself near absolute powers, placing himself and the assembly above any oversight, including by the judiciary.

Protesters began to gather outside the court last night and the officials said the judges did not come to court today over fears for their safety.

In the past, Islamists have assaulted secular politicians, lawyers and activists outside court complexes as judges inside deliberated rulings anticipated to be against their interests.

Islamists say that the courts are filled with judges loyal to Hosni Mubarak’s ousted regime. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled in June to dissolve the Islamist-dominated People’s Assembly, parliament’s lawmaking lower chamber, on the grounds that a third of its members were illegally elected.

Besides ruling on the legitimacy of the constituent assembly, the court was also expected to rule today on parliament’s upper chamber, also dominated by Islamists.

A ruling from the court – regardless of which way it goes – would be a direct challenge to Mr Morsi, who last month gave himself near absolute powers, placing himself and the assembly above any oversight, including by the judiciary.

Mr Morsi’s decrees caused an uproar among the nation’s secular-led opposition. Further stoking the anger, the constituent assembly last week rushed through a vote on the charter’s 230 clauses in an all-night session.

The panel’s chairman, Islamist Hossam al-Ghiryani, kept the voting at a rapid clip, badgering members to drop disputes and objections and move on. At times the process appeared slap-dash, with fixes to missing phrasing and even several entirely new articles proposed, written and voted on in the hours just before sunrise.

The panel’s secular and Christian members have withdrawn from the panel over recent weeks, claiming that the process has been hijacked by the Islamists. But Mr Morsi, in power since June, praised the draft as a giant step toward democratic rule and ordered a nationwide referendum on the document to be held December 15.

Tens of thousands of his supporters staged rallies across much of the country yesterday. The gatherings were in part a response to large protests by the opposition on Tuesday and Friday. The opposition is now considering a call for civil disobedience to force Mr Morsi to rescind his decrees.

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