Egypt’s Judges Protest Presidential Decree

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 24 2012 3:18 PM

Egypt’s ElBaradei , Country’s Top Judges Speak Up Against Presidential Decree

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"Morsi Go" is written in Arabic on the road in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Anger at Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continues to grow, further dividing Egypt as it continues on the rocky path toward setting up democratic institutions. On Saturday, it was the turn of Egypt’s top judges, who said Morsi’s recent move to grant himself almost absolute power is an “unprecedented assault” on the judiciary as a whole, reports the Associated Press. Shortly afterward, democracy advocate and Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei called on Morsi to rescind the decree.

With its statement today, Egypt’s highest body of judges unequivocally sided with the protesters that have taken to the country’s streets to express their anger at Morsi for approving a decree Thursday granting himself extensive new powers. Judges in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, have gone on strike to protest, vowing not to return to work until the decree isn’t revoked, reports the BBC. The judges have said that with the decree, Morsi now has more power than any president in the modern history of Egypt. Although Morsi has said the new powers are temporary until there is a new constitution and parliament, the judges aren’t convinced. “The judges say … what is the guarantee that it is for a temporary amount of time. They say you can not have a president who is accountable to no one,” reports Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid.

Morsi’s opponents and supporters have now called for rival demonstrations on Tuesday, according to Reuters. But, in the meantime, the chaos in the streets continues. The Telegraph’s Richard Spencer writes that police once again fired tear gas at protesters Saturday as they had on Friday, while protesters tried to once again occupy Tahrir Square.

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Morsi’s supporters insist the decree is necessary in order to speed up the transition to democracy. The New York Times points out that a ruling widely expected on Dec. 2 could disband the constitutional assembly and extend its year-end deadline by two months. But now, as Islamists stand behind Morsi while secular leaders increase protests against him, the decree could very well threaten any chance of uniting the “two forces that brought down Egypt’s longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011,” reports the Washington Post.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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