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Lawyers, hundreds of protesters make case against constituent assembly at court

Protesters on Tuesday call on court to scrap the constituent assembly tasked with drawing up Egypt's new constitution, and demand better representation and social inclusion; lawyers file case but court postpones till April

Nada El-Kouny, Tuesday 27 Mar 2012
Photo (Mai Shaheen)
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Hundreds of energetic protesters on Tuesday stood outside of Egypt’s State Council in Dokki, Cairo, chanting for hours against the constitutionality of the 100-member Constituent Assembly that was revealed by parliament on Sunday.

Approximately 500 protesters stood outside the court building while another 1000 lawyers and notable figures packed the courtroom, eagerly waiting for a ruling to be made over the lawsuit calling for the nullification of a parliamentary decision over the formation of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution.

Several men and women stood in line outside the entrance of the court building holding banners and chanted, “The Constitution has already been placed, and Egypt’s Destruction is soon to come."

A large number of banners belonging to the ‘Constitution for All Egyptians’ Front, recently formed by a number political groups and movements such as the liberal Free Egyptians Party, the left-wing Tagammu Party and the liberal Democratic Front Party, were seen.

At the rally, members of the Free Egyptians Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, whose representatives resigned from the assembly by Sunday evening, called for the boycott of the assembly.

Karima Hefnawy, a leading member of the Kefaya movement—initiated in 2005 to fight against Hosni Mubarak’s rule and against the possible transfer of power to his son, Gamal Mubarak—was one of the people present at the protest.

She stated that this is an attempt in creating a mass based popular movement in which an expected increase of protests and marches will be seen in the coming period.

Hefnawy also clarified how most of the means being used by those against the assembly tasked with drafting Egypt’s constitution are peaceful, and that one of the means that can be used is by initiating a parallel committee that is more representative of Egyptian society.

Gaber Nassar, one of the lawyers filing the lawsuit, stated that the main issue of contention over the committee is on who was included in the committee, but more importantly, who was excluded.

Speaking to Ahram Online, Nassar expressed how as a result of the clear hegemony over the assembly by the Islamists, a certain incompetence can be seen.

He added how very important people were not taken into account such as Nobel Laureate, Ahmed Zewail, and also, author of the bestseller, The Yaacoubian Building, Alaa Al-Aswany.

“On the other hand, we find someone like the spokesperson of the Salafist Nour Party, Nader Bakar chosen to the assembly without necessarily having any expertise”, stated Nassar. 

The point of contention over the make up of the assembly is its domination by a clear majority of Islamists, whereby 65 per cent of the 100-member assembly are Islamists, with 50 members from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party.

A significant presence of Nubians was found, many of who chanted for social inclusion.

Naglaa Abul-Magd, a Nubian activist stated her rejection of the unequal number of minorities chosen, whether they are Coptic Christians, women, or from the Amazigh and Bedouin communities.

She further added that there is a lack of representation from within the Islamists themselves, as a very few number of Al Azhar scholars were included.    

“Even when they do choose a minority group’s member, it is always for cosmetic reasons and they are primarily chosen for also being in support of the Islamist current” added Abul-Magd. 

Midway through the protest, the women’s voices were dominant for a majority of the time, where tens of the women present chanted loudly, “Egypt’s Constitution is the Red Line”, as well as, “Egypt’s constitution will be written by our own hands not dictated to us”.

Inside the courtroom, supporters starting shouting, “Down, down with the military regime” after Ahmed Abou Baraka, the Freedom and Justice Party MP who is representing parliament, completed his defense.

A number of prominent lawyers including Mohamed Shehata, head of the Arab Center for Transparency and Integrity, Sameh Ashour, a former head of the lawyers' syndicate, Khaled Ali, the potential presidential candidate, are among those who filed the lawsuit against the parliament, challenging the constitutionality of its 50-50 decision.

“While we respect that a majority force has taken over parliament, that cannot however mean that the assembly they are to elect, is to be made up that same force,” stated Nassar.

He further clarified how based on Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration that came into effect March 2011 after a nationwide referendum, stipulated that parliamentary members cannot elect themselves but are to instead elect members who should have all been non-parliamentarians.

The protest was called for a number of groups under the umbrella of “Constitution for All Egyptians Front” which includes:  The National Commission for Change; the Front for Egyptian Innovation; the Egyptian Communist Party; the Popular Socialist Alliance Party; the Youth Coalition Association; the National Centre for Popular Committees; the Egyptian Socialist Party; the National Coalition for Fighting Corruption; Egyptian Women with the Revolution; the Union of Independent Labour Syndicates; the Union of Egyptian Farmers; and the Renaissance Current for Culture and Media.

The court trial has been adjourned to 10 April, 2012 where a final decision is expected to be announced over a case that is to rule over the assembly’s constitutionality, and, in turn, the prospects for writing a foundational document for the country.

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