Egypt court shuts amid protests
Protests by Islamists allied to President Mohamed Morsi forced Egypt's highest court to adjourn its work indefinitely today, intensifying a conflict between some of the country's top judges and the head of state.
The Supreme Constitutional Court said it would not convene until its judges could operate without "psychological and material pressure", saying protesters had stopped the judges from reaching the building.
Several hundred Morsi supporters had protested outside the court through the night ahead of a session expected to examine the legality of parliament's upper house and the assembly that drafted a new constitution, both of them Islamist-controlled.
The cases have cast a legal shadow over Mr Morsi's efforts to chart a way out of a crisis ignited by a November 22 decree that temporarily expanded his powers and led to nationwide protests.
The court's decision to suspend its activities appeared unlikely to have any immediate impact on Mr Morsi's drive to get the new constitution passed in a national referendum on December 15th.
Three people have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests and counter-demonstrations over Mr Morsi's decree.
At least 200,000 of Morsi's supporters attended a rally at Cairo University yesterday. His opponents are staging an open-ended sit-in in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cradle of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Mr Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled him to power in a June election, hope to end the crisis by pushing through the new constitution hastily adopted by the drafting assembly on Friday. The next day the assembly handed the text to Mr Morsi, who called the referendum and urged Egyptians to vote.
Outside the Supreme Constitutional Court, Muslim Brotherhood supporters rallied behind the referendum date. "Yes to the constitution", declared a banner held aloft by one protester. Chants demanded the "purging of the judiciary".
The interior minister told the head of the court that the building was accessible and the protests were peaceful.
The protest reflected the deep suspicion harboured by Egypt's Islamists towards a court they see as a vestige of the Mubarak era. The same court ruled in June to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-led lower house of parliament.
Since then, several legal cases have challenged the legitimacy of the upper house of parliament and the 100-member constituent assembly that wrote the constitution.
Those against the upper house have focused on the legality of the law by which it was elected, while the constitutional assembly has faced a raft of court cases alleging that the way it was picked was illegal.