Morsi in talks with judges on new powers


Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi negotiated with senior judges yesterday to try to defuse a crisis over his seizure of new powers which set off violent protests reminiscent of the uprising last year that led to the rise of his Islamist movement.

The justice minister said he believed Mr Morsi would agree with Egypt’s highest judicial authority on its proposal to limit the scope of the new powers.

Mr Morsi’s spokesman said the president was “very optimistic Egyptians would overcome the crisis”.

But the protesters, some camped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, have said they will be satisfied only if he retracts the decree. It is a sign of the deep rift between Islamists and their opponents that is destabilising Egypt two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

“There is no use amending the decree,” said Tarek Ahmed (26), a protester who stayed the night in Tahrir, where tents covered the central traffic circle. “It must be scrapped.”

One person has been killed and about 370 injured in clashes between police and protesters since Mr Morsi issued the decree on Thursday.

Emboldened by international plaudits for brokering an end to eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas, he shielded his decisions from judicial review. The stock market is down more than 7 per cent.

‘Dictator’ behaviour

Mr Morsi’s political opponents have accused him of behaving like a dictator and the West has voiced concern over more turbulence in a country that has a peace treaty with Israel and lies at the heart of the Arab Spring.

Mr Morsi’s administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation. Leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.

Hint of compromise

“President Morsi is very optimistic that Egyptians will overcome this challenge as they have overcome other challenges,” presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said, shortly before the president started his meeting with members of Egypt’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council.

The council has hinted at a compromise, saying Mr Morsi’s decree should apply only to “sovereign matters”.

That suggests it did not reject the declaration outright. It urged judges and prosecutors, some of whom went on strike, to return to work.

Justice minister Ahmed Mekky, speaking about the council statement, said: “I believe President Mohamed Morsi wants that.”

The presidential spokesman said two Morsi aides had asked to resign over the crisis, but Mr Morsi had yet to accept.

The protesters are worried that Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood aims to dominate the post-Mubarak era after winning the first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections this year.

A deal with a judiciary dominated by Mubarak-era judges, which Mr Morsi has pledged to reform, may not placate them. – (Reuters)