The planned "Justice Conference" between Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and judges will not take place, but a new proposed judicial authority law will be presented and will put an end to the deadlock between the two sides, Justice Minister Ahmed Suleiman said Saturday.
Suleiman announced that the Ministry of Justice is working on tailoring a new proposed judicial authority bill, to be presented to the Shura Council (the upperh house of parliament endowed with legislative authority until the election of the House of Representatives).
Suleiman underlined that the new bill, unlike previous ones, leaves intact the present retirement age. Prior versions would have effectively pensioned off a quarter of Egypt's 13,000 serving judges, which angered many judges in the past few months.
Many judges believed the proposed changes were a form of "payback" by the Muslim Brotherhood — which currently enjoys a parliamentary majority — against judges who had jailed many of the group's members during the Mubarak era.
They also believed the proposed amendments would give the Islamist group the chance to stock Egypt's judiciary with Brotherhood loyalists.
Supporters of the amendments said the retirement age for judges had originally been 60, but was raised several times by Egypt's pre-revolution parliament in order to maintain judges loyal to ousted president Hosni Mubarak in their posts.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party (consisting mainly of Brotherhood defectors) have both introduced bills in the Shura Council on the judiciary.
With the Justice Conference canceled, Suleiman believes that "the stalemate between the regime and judiciary will come to an end after the Shura Council refers the proposed laws on judicial authorities to the judicial bodies entitled to check them, as the constitution stipulates."
On why the cancelation of the Justice Conference, which was called for by President Morsi, Suleiman told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news portal: "I met the president the day before yesterday [Thursday] at the presidential palace, and he did not refer to the Justice Conference at all."
"It is clear that the current circumstances are not suitable for the conference to be held," he added.
Tensions with Ethiopia over the dam project the African country has started working on, and which might jeopardise Egypt's share of Nile water, is among the major concerns the Egyptian presidency is facing. Internally, planned mass protests against Morsi on 30 June are widely expected to develop into clashes with Islamist forces.
The Judges' Club, an unofficial elected body of Egypt's judges, had already decided to take no part in the proposed Justice Conference.