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Media, public asked to leave Egypt Court session on constitution-drafting assembly

Despite groups calling for mass protests outside the courthouse in protest of the Muslim Brotherhood petition to change the judges ruling on Egypt's constitution-drafting body, only tens arrive

Ahram Online, Monday 30 Jul 2012
Administrative Court
"No to the Constituent Assembly; yes to a constitution representative of all Egyptians", reads banner on bottom right by protesters against the Muslim Brotherhood's petition. Protesters outside main steps of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court, Giza, Cairo (Photo: Nada El-Kouny)
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Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) Monday session to address a petition filed by Muslim Brotherhood lawyers to recuse the judges’ ruling on the validity of the second Constituent Assembly, has been delayed for a few hours after lawyers requested that it be a closed session. All members of the media and the public were asked to leave the hearing, which was initially scheduled to start at noon.

The Brotherhood, as the majority in the now-dissolved lower house of parliament, took up the task of defending the legitimacy of the constitution-drafting body.

They filed a petition to replace the SAC judges who are expected to give a verdict on the current Constituent Assembly, arguing the panel is biased given that they had previously ruled against the parliamentary procedure forming the first assembly, which to its dissolution in April.

In June, Egypt’s High Constitutional Court declared that the law which regulated the elections of the lower house of parliament (the People's Assembly) was unconstitutional leading to the military council dismantling the legislative body in mid-June.

Since the lower house had chosen the current Constituent Assembly's 100 members, the second assembly itself came into question. Following Monday’s expected ruling, a date will be set for the hearing regarding the second Constituent Assembly.

Ahram Online reporter at Cairo's Administrative Court described the atmosphere as calm despite the fact that no explanation had been given for the late start and that several political forces denouncing the Brotherhood’s actions had called for mass protests Monday.

Many see the incumbent assembly as “unrepresentative” of the diversity of the country and are pushing for new appointments of its members.

Outside the judicial building eight men, who responded to an open Facebook invitation from TV personality and head of the Faraeen satellite channel Tawfik Okasha, are protesting the Islamist group’s petition, bearing signs saying "Yes for respecting the judiciary" whilst chanting against the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide.

Howeida El-Hakim, a 47-year-old housewife, told Ahram Online that she is a supporter of the controversial anchorman and attends most demonstrations he calls for. "I am a regular visitor to any of the protests directed against the Muslim Brotherhood, they are set to lead our country into turmoil", she added.

However, the Maspero Youth Coalition, a Coptic rights group who also put out a call for demonstrations against the lawsuit in a press statement Sunday, failed to appear at the courthouse. The youth group had stated that they were in full support of the Egyptian judiciary but were against the unrepresentative nature of the constitution-drafting body. “We stand against the Brotherhood’s violation of the April Supreme Administrative Court ruling over the first constituent assembly,” they added.

One woman in her late 20s, who came in support of the coalition, told Ahram Online, “People do not see the ruling as a priority, even though it should be, so I believe the assembly will be allowed to continue as it is.”

No protesters in support of the Muslim Brotherhood petition were present.

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