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Top Egypt judges to examine draft amendments to judicial authority law

Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to look into controversial draft amendments to Egypt's judicial authority law before issuing official response

Ahram Online, Monday 27 May 2013
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Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Monday declared that it would look into proposed amendments to a controversial judicial authority law once they were formally submitted to it, after which the council will issue an official response to the proposed changes.

The announcement came following a meeting of SJC members, headed by Judge Mohamed Metwaly.

On Saturday, Egypt’s Shura Council (the upper house of parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) referred three proposed amendments to Egypt's 1972 judicial authority law to the Shura Council's constitutional and legislative affairs committee for examination.

The draft amendments – tabled in April by the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party and endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party – were criticised by many judicial officials at the time, aggravating a months-long political tug-of-war between Egypt's judiciary and Islamist forces.

The proposed amendments would see the reduction of the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60, effectively pensioning off about one quarter of Egypt's 13,000 serving judges.

Proponents of the legislative changes argue that the retirement age had been gradually increased from 60 to 70 by the Mubarak regime in an effort to prolong the terms of pro-regime judges.

The ongoing political standoff between Egypt's presidency and judiciary began in earnest last November, when President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree sacking Mubarak-era prosecutor-general Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud and appointing Judge Talaat Abdullah in his place.

At the time, 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 SJC was the only entity with the right to appoint a new prosecutor-general.

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