Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has told Egypt's top judges that he would personally adopt their proposals for a new judicial authority law in hopes of containing mounting tension between Egypt's Islamist forces and the judiciary.
"All obstacles to achieving justice will be discussed at an upcoming conference, including the formulation of new judicial authority laws," presidential spokesman Ehab Fahmi said following a Sunday meeting between President Morsi and the heads of Egyptian judicial agencies.
"The president will personally adopt all recommendations to come out of the planned conference, including draft laws, which he will present to the relevant legislative bodies," Fahmi added. "The president has praised judges' proposals for a 'justice conference' and has asked judges who attended the Sunday meeting to convene on Tuesday to prepare for the conference."
The Sunday meeting was seen as an attempt to clear the air amid an ongoing standoff between the presidency and Islamist parties on one hand, and the judiciary on the other.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Morsi hails, along with other Islamist forces, have been calling on the Shura Council (the upper house of Egypt's parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) to pass a new judicial authority law.
The new law would see the retirement age for judges lowered from 70 to 60, an outcome opposed by many judges and political forces.
In a separate announcement, Supreme Judicial Council head Mohamed Momtaz Metwally – who attended Sunday's meeting – confirmed the presidency's assertions.
"The president has expressed his full appreciation for Egypt's judicial authority and has commended the idea of convening a 'justice conference'," Metwally announced following the meeting.
Neither of the two statements, however, provided details as to the fate of the proposed judicial authority law. However, Mamdouh Ramzi, a member of the Shura Council's legislative committee, said that Sunday's meeting meant that the current draft law – proposed earlier this month by the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party – would likely not be considered.
"If President Morsi... said he would receive a draft law from the judges and propose it himself to the Shura Council, then we can say goodbye to the draft law tabled by the Wasat Party," Ramzi told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website on Sunday.
The months-long standoff between Egypt's presidency and judiciary began in earnest last November, when Morsi issued a decree sacking Mubarak-era prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud and replacing him with Judge Talaat Abdullah.
The move prompted uproar among much of the judiciary, with a number of judges accusing Morsi of infringing on judicial independence. According to Egyptian law, they argued, the Supreme Judicial Council is the only entity with the right to appoint a new prosecutor-general.
On 19 April, the Muslim Brotherhood organised a Friday rally to demand a "purge" of Egypt's judiciary, in a move that some analysts feared would further damage the group's relationship with the nation's judges.