Egypt constitution finalized as opposition fumes

Updated 02 December 2012
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Egypt constitution finalized as opposition fumes

CAIRO: An assembly raced through approval of a new constitution for Egypt yesterday to end a crisis over President Muhammad Mursi’s newly expanded powers, but opponents responded with another rally in Cairo against the new leader.
“The people want to bring down the regime,” they chanted in Tahrir Square, where hundreds had gathered, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place less than two years ago and brought down Hosni Mubarak.
Mursi said the decree halting court challenges to his decisions, which sparked eight days of protests and violence by Egyptians calling him a new dictator, was “for an exceptional stage,” aimed at speeding up the democratic transition.
“It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution,” he told state television while the constituent assembly was still voting on the draft, which the hard-liners say reflects Egypt’s new freedoms. “There is no place for dictatorship.”
The opposition cried foul. Liberals, leftists, Christians, more moderate Muslims and others had withdrawn from the assembly, saying their voices were not being heard.
They called for big rallies across the country yesterday after tens of thousands protested against Mursi’s decree on Tuesday.
Protesters said they would push for a ‘no’ vote in a referendum, which could happen as early as mid-December. If approved, it would immediately cancel the president’s decree.
“We fundamentally reject the referendum and constituent assembly because the assembly does not represent all sections of society,” said Sayed El-Erian, 43, a protester in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. He is a member of the liberal Dostour (Constitution) Party, set up by prominent opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei.
“Leave, leave,” some chanted, another anti-Mubarak slogan.
The final draft contains historic changes to Egypt’s system of government. It limits to eight years the amount of time a president can serve, for example. Mubarak was in power for three decades. It also introduces a degree of oversight over the military establishment — though not enough for critics.
Mursi is expected to ratify the document by today, allowing a referendum to be held as soon as mid-December.
Critics argue it is an attempt to rush through a draft they say has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Mursi for president in a June election, and its allies.
Eleven newspapers plan not to publish on Tuesday to protest Mursi’s decree, one reported. Al-Masry Al-Youm, one of Egypt’s most widely read dailies, also said three privately owned satellite channels would not broadcast on Wednesday in protest.

 


Iran accuses rights lawyer of state security offenses: husband

Updated 3 min 18 sec ago
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Iran accuses rights lawyer of state security offenses: husband

  • Award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh faces prosecution on state security charges following her arrest in the capital last week, her husband said
  • Sotoudeh, who is one of the few outspoken advocates for human rights in Iran, was detained in her Tehran home on June 13

TEHRAN: Award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh faces prosecution on state security charges following her arrest in the capital last week, her husband said on Saturday.
Sotoudeh, 55, denies the charges but remains in the women’s wing of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after refusing to post bail of $95,000 (more than 80,000 euros), Reza Khandan told the ISNA news agency.
“My wife is accused of conspiracy, assembly and propaganda against the system” of rule of the Islamic republic, Khandan said.
“My wife considers the accusations against her to be baseless and made up, and the bail demand to be disproportionate,” he added.
Sotoudeh, who is one of the few outspoken advocates for human rights in Iran, was detained in her Tehran home on June 13.
Her arrest has been condemned by the US State Department and human rights group Amnesty International, which both called for her immediate release.
Earlier this year, Sotoudeh represented several women arrested for protesting against the mandatory wearing of headscarves in Iran.
Tehran police said in February that 29 women had been detained for posing in public without their headscarves.
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov rights award in 2012 for her work on high-profile human rights and political cases, including those on death row for offenses committed as minors.
She spent three years in prison between 2010 and 2013 for “actions against national security” and spreading “propaganda against the system” and remains banned from representing political cases or leaving Iran until 2022.
Sotoudeh has defended journalists and activists including Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and several dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
She had recently spoken out against a new criminal code that allowed only a small number of lawyers — just 20 in Tehran — to represent individuals charged with state security offenses.
During her previous spell in Evin, Sotoudeh staged two hunger strikes in protest at the conditions and over a ban on seeing her son and daughter.
She was released in September 2013 shortly before Iran’s then newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, who had campaigned on a pledge to improve civil rights, attended the UN General Assembly.