The Supreme Judicial Council, Egypt’s highest judicial authority, has criticised President Mohamed Morsi’s move to grant himself sweeping new powers that would protect his decisions from being challenged as an “unprecedented attack”.
In an emergency meeting on Saturday, the council urged Morsi “to distance this decree from everything that violates the judicial authority”.
Morsi has also given himself sweeping powers that allowed him to sack the unpopular prosecutor general and opened the door for a retrial for Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president, and his aides.
At a Judges’ Club news conference on Saturday, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, the former prosecutor general, said that he is willing to go to court to dispute Moris’s decision and warned “against any attempt to disrupt the work of the judicial system”.
The influential group of justices also called for a “suspension of work all in courts and prosecution administrations,” in protest against the decree.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Cairo, said the Judges’ Club objects to Morsi’s decree, which they say gives him more power than any president in the history of modern Egypt has enjoyed.
Morsi’s constitutional decree does say that these powers are temporary and in effect until a new constitution is written, gone to referendum and a new parliament is voted in.
“However, the judges say … what is the guarantee that it is for a temprorary amount of time. They say you can not have a president who is accountable to no one,” our correspondent said.
|‘Morsi Go’ is written on the road in Cairo’s Tahrir Square [AFP]|
In the government’s favour, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has called for a mass protest on Tuesday in support of Morsi.
Morsi’s announcement on Thursday sparked large protests across Egypt on Friday.
Minor clashes broke out on Saturday when demonstrators on Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square threw rocks at security forces, who fired back with tear gas.
“I don’t like, want or need to resort to exceptional measures. but I will if I see that my people, nation and the revolution of Egypt are in danger,” Morsi told hundreds of his supporters who rallied outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday.
“I don’t want to have all the powers. But if I see my nation in danger, I will do and I will act. I must.”
Buoyed by accolades recently for mediating a truce between Hamas and Israel, Morsi ordered on Thursday that an assembly dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood writing the new constitution could not be dissolved by legal challenges.
Liberal and secular members earlier walked out of the body, charging it would impose strict Islamic practises.
His announcement led to clashes in several cities between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s president, a clear show of the deepening polarisation plaguing the country.
One hundred wounded
In the largest rally on Friday, thousands of chanting protesters packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the heart of the 2011 revolution, demanding Morsi quit and accusing him of launching a “coup”.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square after opposition leaders called for a “million-man march” to protest against what they say is a coup by Morsi.
On Friday, protesters were calling for the fall of Morsi’s government and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Among the protesters was Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
On Thursday, ElBaradei – who also participated in the 2011 protests – tweeted that Morsi had “appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh”.
In Alexandria, Port Said and Suez, protests turned violent and at least 100 people were wounded in clashes between Morsi’s supporters and opponents.
The headquarters of Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Alexandria was set on fire by protesters on Friday afternoon, with the party’s offices have been attacked in five cities in total.