Egypt’s President Morsi, flushed from international praise after brokering a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, granted himself and bodies dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood sweeping powers this week, excluding himself from any form of judicial review:
Morsi decreed immunity for the panel drafting a new constitution from any possible court decisions to dissolve it. He has also granted the same protection to the upper chamber of parliament. Both bodies are dominated by Morsi's Islamist allies.
Several courts are looking into cases demanding the dissolution of both bodies. Parliament's lower chamber, also dominated by Islamists, was dissolved in June by a court decision on the grounds that the rules governing its election were illegal.
Morsi also decreed that all the decisions he has made since taking office in June and until a new constitution is adopted are not subject to appeal in court or by any other authority, a move that places Morsi above oversight of any kind. He already has legislative powers after the lower chamber was dissolved days before he took office on
Morsi also sacked the Chief Prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmood, a Mubarak-era holdover who had been accused of incompetence in the trials of Mubarak-era police officers who were acquitted of assault and murder charges during the Egyptian protest that brought down former President Mubarak.
Supporters of the President gathered outside the Presidential Palace where Morsi addressed them, stating:
"I won't oppress anyone, and I won't leave an opportunity for anyone to contradict the revolution,"Morsi is trying to justify the power grab as temporary and necessary to maintain the revolution, specifically to combat the Mubarak-era judiciary from tainting the revolution while the new constitution is being drafted. However, the power grab has united some of the Mubarak-era judiciary with those who were protesting the Muslim Brotherhood’s policies prior to Morsi’s declaration and the moves by Salafist elements seeking greater role for Islam in government. 26 opposition parties have agreed to a one-week sit-in in Tahrir Square starting Friday, reminiscent of the protests that helped to bring down the Mubarak regime. Clashes between police and anti-government protesters are occurring all over Egypt, with reports of Muslim Brotherhood offices being set on fire and clashes between government supporters and opponents.
"We want to achieve independence between the executive, judiciary, and legislative bodies," he said, claiming the decree would be temporary, and that it is needed to address the special circumstances surrounding a nascent era of post-revolutionary Egypt.
There has been a call for a judicial strike by the influential Judges Club:
Hundreds of judges held an extraordinary general assembly for the Judges' Club at the High Court headquarters in downtown Cairo to discuss measures against President Morsi's constitutional decree issued Thursday, which they argue oversteps their judicial jurisdiction and independence.However, another grouping of lawyers has supported Morsi’s declaration:
Meanwhile, during an emergency meeting on Saturday afternoon, Egypt's Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC) issued a statement expressing their disappointment over the decrees and described Morsi's move as "unprecedented attack on judiciary independence."
The reform judges caucus"Judges for Egypt" declared on Saturday their support for President Mohamed Morsi's newly issued constitutional declaration.The tensions between seen between those who are outraged at Morsi’s abandonment of judicial oversight versus those who accuse many members of the Mubarak-era judiciary of threatening the revolution is apparent in the responses within judicial circles. But there is a matrix of issues at play which is creating thorny questions without easy answers. Is the judiciary indeed tainting the revolution and using democratic freedoms to do so? Does by-passing the judiciary in an authoritarian way really protect the revolution? And then there are also the practical questions about the revolution itself: Egyptian society is divided. Morsi is not trusted by large elements of the population. Can the disparate opposition elements unite to fight off Morsi's power grab. And if they can't, will Morsi indeed restore judicial oversight once the constitution is drafted?
The group's official spokesperson Walid Sharaby stated to Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr news channel that the Judges for Egypt meeting was attended by hundreds of their members.
"We are honoured that our meeting [to support the constitutional declaration] was not attended by members of the High Constitutional Court (HCC). We know of their orientation; they only seek to restore the old Mubarak regime," the spokesperson stated to Al-Jazeera.