Egypt's Morsi meets with top judicial body amid tensions over judiciary

Ahram Online , Monday 22 Apr 2013

After Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki's resignation, President Mohamed Morsi meets with Egypt's top judicial council, prosecutor-general

Pro-Morsi protesters conduct Friday prayers outside the Supreme Court, before a demonstration calling upon Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to achieve judicial reforms, in Cairo April 19, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi held a meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah on Monday morning, one day after Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki’s resignation due to Friday's anti-judiciary protests.

A long drawn out struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood-derived government and the judiciary was recently stoked when Egypt's upper house of parliament discussed a new judicial authority law – proposed by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and its allies - which would retire and replace over 3,000 judges.

The bill was described by judges and members of opposition groups as an attempt to carry out a "judges' massacre" and pump Brotherhood loyalists into Egypt's judiciary.

Friday's protests called for the “purging of the judiciary” after courts gave recent acquittals to top members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's regime. Fears Mubarak would be released pending his retrial for ordering the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising also stoked fears the deposed dictator would escape justice.

On Saturday, a court had ordered Mubarak's release while investigations continue into charges of graft. Nevertheless, he remained in Tora Prison pending a verdict in a separate financial corruption case.

On Monday, however, a Cairo criminal court accepted an appeal submitted by Egypt's prosecution against the release order.

Former justice minister Mekki has repeatedly criticised the judicial authority bill's stipulation to reduce the retirement age from 70 to 60 years, a move which would forcibly retire many judges.

Mekki had publicly announced his opposition to President Morsi’s move to dismiss former prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud and appoint Talaat Abdullah in his place via a controversial constitutional declaration in November 2012.

Abdullah, who will attend the meeting with the president and SJC, is accused by the opposition of carrying out the president and Muslim Brotherhood's orders.

The appointment of Abdullah is regarded by the president's supporters as a move to realise one of the 2011 revolution's key goals by removing Abdel-Meguid, a Mubarak appointee.

Opponents of the president accuse Morsi of breaking the law in appointing Abdullah, a task they contend only the SJC is legally entitled to do.

Last month, an Egyptian appeal court reversed President Morsi's November decision to appoint Abdullah. The SJC called on Abdullah to leave his position following the court order. Nevertheless, Abdullah remains in his position. According to Egyptian law, the SJC cannot dismiss the prosecutor-general.

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