Published — Tuesday 27 November 2012
Last update 27 November 2012 4:01 am
CAIRO: Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi met senior judges yesterday to try to ease a crisis over his seizure of new powers which has set off violent protests reminiscent of the revolution last year that led to the rise of his Islamist movement.
The justice minister said he believed Mursi would agree with the country’s highest judicial authority on its proposal to limit the scope of the new powers.
But the protesters, some camped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, have said only retracting his decree will satisfy them, a sign of the deep rift that is destabilizing Egypt two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.
One person has been killed and about 370 have been injured in clashes between police and protesters since Mursi issued the decree on Thursday shielding his decisions from judicial review, emboldened by international plaudits for brokering an end to eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas.
Mursi’s administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation. Leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.
Mursi’s office said earlier he would meet Egypt’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council and the council hinted at compromise.
Mursi’s decree should apply only to “sovereign matters”, it said, suggesting it did not reject the declaration outright, and called on judges and prosecutors, some of whom began a strike on Sunday, to return to work.
Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky, speaking about the council statement, said: “I believe President Muhammad Mursi wants that.”
A deal with a judiciary dominated by Mubarak-era judges, which Mursi has pledged to reform, may not placate them.
Banners in Tahrir called for dissolving the assembly drawing up a constitution, an Islamist-dominated body Mursi made immune from legal challenge.
Only once a constitution is written can a new Parliamentary election be held. Until then, legislative and executive power remains in Mursi’s hands, and Thursday’s decree puts his decisions above judicial oversight.
One Muslim Brotherhood member was killed and 60 people were hurt on Sunday in an attack on the main office of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian Nile Delta town of Damanhour, the website of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said.
The party’s offices have also been attacked in other cities.
A security source had earlier put the number of wounded at more than 500, but later clarified that this was the number injured since street battles erupted last week with police in and around Tahrir before the decree was announced.
One politician said the scale of the crisis could push opponents towards a deal to avoid a further escalation. Mursi’s opponents have called for a big demonstration on Tuesday.
Mursi’s office repeated assurances that the steps would be temporary, and said he wanted dialogue with political groups to find “common ground” over what should go into the constitution.
Talks with Mursi have been rejected by members of a National Salvation Front, a new opposition coalition that brings together liberal, leftist and other politicians and parties, who until Mursi’s decree had been a fractious bunch struggling to unite.