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Egypt

Egypt’s top court halts work due to pro-Morsi protests

Egypt's top court has delayed its work indefinitely after supporters of President Mohammed Morsi protested outside its headquarters. The court was to hear a case on the legality of Egypt’s Islamist-controlled parliament.

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court said on Sunday that it would not convene until its judges could operate without "psychological and material pressure", saying protesters had stopped the judges from reaching the building.

Morsi supporters had protested outside the court through the night ahead of a session expected to examine the legality of the upper house of parliament and the assembly that drafted a new constitution, both of which are controlled by Islamists. It is unclear what effect a ruling from the court could have.

Judges will not supervise referendum

The decision is the latest in a deepening crisis between President Morsi and the courts, incensed by his decree on November 22 to make all his decisions and laws immune to judicial review.

The assembly on Friday hastily adopted a draft constitution amid an outcry from Christians and moderate Muslim members who had walked out before the vote.

They complained that their opinions had gone unheard by the assembly, which is dominated by members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

In an interview broadcast Thursday, Morsi said his new powers would expire once the constitution was ratified, which Islamists cite in his favor.

Morsi has set December 15 as a date for a public vote on the new constitution, Egypt's first since a popular uprising forced his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, to resign almost two years ago.

International criticism

Among the provisions of the draft is an article that was retained from the old constitution, which defines “the principles of Shariah” as the main source of legislation. It also adds new Islamic references. The draft also includes a provision limiting any single president to just two four-year terms and some civilian oversight of the country's military.

Amnesty International released a statement on Saturday saying the draft "raises concerns about Egypt's commitment to human rights treaties," and, "in the name of religion," ignores gender equality and restricts freedom of expression.

hc/mkg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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