Islamists protest outside Egyptian court
Amid widespread unrest, Islamist supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi call on the nation's highest court to keep two controversial government bodies intact.PT1M9S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2aq0i 620 349 December 3, 2012
EGYPT'S judges won't supervise the country's constitutional referendum on December 15 and will boycott the vote.
The announcement appears to deepen the country's constitutional crisis.
The state-run Middle East News Agency reported the judges' announcement, citing Judge Ahmed El Zind, the head of the nation's judge's association.
Intimidation ... supporters of President Mursi rally in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Maadi, south of Cairo. Photo: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH
Egypt's highest court suspended its work after hundreds of President Mohammed Mursi's Islamist supporters protested on Sunday outside the court building against a scheduled hearing dealing with the legitimacy of a panel that wrote the draft constitution.
The Supreme Constitutional Court said it could not operate in such an environment and would suspend its sessions until justices could again work without "any psychological and material pressure". It didn't say when it would reconvene.
"The judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court have no choice but to announce to the great people of Egypt that they are unable to carry out their sacred duty in such a charged environment, filled with hatred, desire for vengeance, and fabricated, imaginary animosity," the court said in the statement.
One Egyptian high court justice said he and his colleagues were told their safety would be at risk if they attended the hearing.
"We have been forcefully prevented from entering, and there were threats of murder and of burning the building," said Justice Tahani el-Gebali, who was among those singled out in the chants. "We have received security information not to go because our lives would be in danger."
The protesters had camped overnight by the court, gathering hours after Dr Mursi had set December 15 as the date for a national referendum on a draft charter.
The announcement followed more than a week of mass protests by opponents demanding dissolution of the panel, which is dominated by Islamists. Backers of Dr Mursi, an Islamist drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood, gathered tens of thousands in counter-demonstrations in support of the president and the draft.
Sunday's hearing was meant to deal with the legitimacy of the constitutional panel and the parliament's upper house. An earlier incarnation of the committee was dissolved, while the lower house was also disbanded following court rulings.
Last month Dr Mursi announced sweeping new powers that set his decisions above court oversight until the constitutional referendum.