President Mursi’s battles with the Egyptian judiciary

02 - Apr - 2013

Mohamed Mursi’s first battle against the judiciary took place on July 8, 2012, when the Egyptian President issued a decree cancelling a court order that dissolved the People’s Assembly, Egypt’s lower house of parliament, thus initiating a conflict with the Supreme Constitutional Court. Mursi retracted this on July 11, however, and said he would respect the court's ruling that blocked his decision to call the nation's parliament back into session.

Mursi provoked the judiciary once more on October 11 when he appointed the then Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud as Egypt’s ambassador to the Vatican. This was a matter that Mahmoud, the Judges’ Club, and the Supreme Judiciary Council rejected, considering the decision a stigma in the history of the judiciary. On October 13, the president took back his decision and received the prosecutor general with a group of judges, arguing that the entire issue was a misunderstanding. The issue, however, managed to stir the indignation of judges, especially those known for their struggle for the independence of the judiciary.

A third battle raged on November 21 when Mursi dismissed the prosecutor general, and granted himself far-reaching powers and immunity from legal oversight. On that day, Mursi issued a constitutional declaration that included several articles, including re-opening the cases of the killing of civilian protestors during the revolution (which was deemed impossible as long as no new evidence had emerged), and allocating special pensions to families of revolution martyrs. He also reduced the time in which the constitution was to be completed from eight to six months from the date of the establishment of the Constituent Assembly, therefore modifying article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration issued on March 30, 2011.

The fifth article of the new declaration constituted a flagrant violation of the independence of the judiciary since it stated that no judicial body has the right to dissolve the Consultative Assembly, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, or the Constituent Assembly. Mursi also appointed a new prosecutor general. The declaration was followed by extraordinary meetings by judges and journalists as well as a series of protests and sit-ins. The Court of Cessation decided to suspend its work on November 29, with a majority of 231 members against 19. It was then that the first violent clashes in front of the presidential palace took place and 10 of the president’s advisors submitted their resignation.

Members of the General Prosecution Authority are still protesting the interference of the executive power in the judiciary despite failed attempts by the justice minister to find a safe way out of the crisis. The Judges Club announced its rejection of supervising the referendum on the constitution and most members of the judiciary abided by the decision.

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