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Egypt Crisis Deepens as Judges Go on Strike
November 28, 2012

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The situation in Egypt is getting more tense by the day, with some of the country's top judges refusing to go to work to protest a recent expansion of powers by President Mohammed Morsi.

The Cassation and Appeals court, the highest appeals court in the land, suspended its work. Homammed Mumtaz Metwali, chairman of the appeals court, is also chairman of the group that oversees all Egyptian courts, the Supreme Judiciary Council, members of whom met with Morsi earlier in the week. Neither Morsi nor Metwali has commented publicly after the meeting. Morsi has kept his powers, and the court has not issued a statement attempting to invalidate those powers. Work at many lower-level courts has stopped as well.

The Supreme Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, did issue a statement, however, rejecting Morsi's assertion that it was working against him. Morsi, in his decree, said that he was motivated to place himself above judicial immunity partly because he thought himself a target of the Council, which is filled with judged appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak. Morsi's decree also removed judicial authority from Parliament and its associated groups, including the 100-member constitution-writing panel, pre-empting a high court ruling on the legitimacy of the panel and of the lower house of Parliament. The high court dissolved the upper house of Parliament in June.

The group writing the constitution said that it could finish its process, bringing forward a planned referendum on the governmental framework. Morsi has insisted that once the constitution has been ratified by the people, he will give up his expanded powers. The constitution-writing panel is now without its Christian and other more liberal members, who resigned out of concern that the majority Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi members were aiming to enshrine into law some of Islam's most conservative principles.

Protesters spilled out of Tahrir Square into other areas of Cairo, and some clashed with police near the U.S. Embassy. Activists reiterated their opposition to Morsi's expansion of powers, planning another massive rally for Friday. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, which had cancelled an earlier rally near Tahrir Square, planned to go ahead with its pro-Morsi demonstration (to take place before Friday).

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