Egypt judges club press conference (Photo: Ahram)
Members of the Judges Club – which represents over 90 percent of Egyptian judges – have gone on strike in protest at proposed amendments to the judicial authority law, the club's deputy chairman, Abdullah Fathi, said on Tuesday.
On Saturday, the Shura Council (upper house of parliament, currently endowed with legislative powers) referred three proposed amendments to the Shura Council's constitutional and legislative affairs committee.
The 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 judges at the time, aggravating a months-long conflict between the judiciary and the ruling Islamist current.
The proposed amendments reduce the retirement age of judges from 70 to 60, effectively pensioning off about one quarter of Egypt's 13,000 serving judges.
“Our strike will continue until the crisis over the reduction of the retirement age ends, and we force a delay to this whole project until a House of Representatives is elected,” Fathi told Al-Ahram Arabic news website.
The Judges Club's decision came after representatives met with members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) – Egypt's highest judicial body – on Tuesday to discuss their response to the proposed amendments.
Judges will take "additional steps” if the Shura Council insists on implementing the amendments, Fathi warned.
On Monday, the SJC said it would issue a response after the proposed amendments have been formally submitted to it.
The ongoing political standoff between the 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.
The move prompted uproar, with a number of judges accusing President Morsi of infringing on judicial independence. According to Egyptian law, they argued, the SJC is the only entity with the right to appoint a new prosecutor-general.