Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Ongoing crisis

The controversial constitutional declaration of President Mohamed Morsi left judges divided into camps, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

Dozens of judges began an open sit-in at the downtown headquarters of the Cairo Judges Club on Tuesday to protest against the 22 November constitutional declaration which, they claim, constitutes a flagrant attack on the judiciary.
“We are not going to end our sit-in even if the crisis continues for years,” the club chairman Ahmed Al-Zend told the press. On Wednesday, judges at the Cassation Court held an emergency general assembly, during which they decided to suspend work until the abolition of the constitutional declaration. The general assembly of the Cairo Appeals Court followed suit. In fact, a large number of courts and prosecutions have been suspending work in accordance with recommendations passed by the Judges Club emergency general assembly held last Saturday.
The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) issued a statement on Wednesday noon to reply to accusations levelled at the SCC that it had leaked rulings before they were officially issued. During his speech before the presidential palace last Friday, President Morsi said he had information that the SCC intends to pass a ruling on 2 December which will undermine his legitimacy as president. Judge Maher Sami, chief justice of the SCC, denied the presence of any lawsuit of such kind before the SCC and said that he had asked the presidency to provide evidence for such an accusation but received no reply.
“The SCC has been subject to a smear campaign launched by a certain political trend [the Muslim Brotherhood]  ever since its ruling last June ordering the dissolution of parliament,” judge Sami told reporters.
“The court will not be intimidated by any threat and will not surrender to any pressures. We are ready to confront these attacks regardless of the price we pay.”
Sami added that the SCC will not allow anyone to infringe on their authority.
The 22 November constitutional declaration’s fifth article prevents any judicial body from dissolving the Shura Council or the Constituent Assembly. Lawsuits calling for the dissolution of both are currently before the SCC.
In an attempt to contain the crisis President Mohamed Morsi met on Monday afternoon with members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). Following the meeting the presidency stated it had no intention of withdrawing its declaration.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali stressed that President Morsi respects the judiciary. He noted that the country is going through a transitional stage that must end as soon as possible.
“As soon as the critical condition which the country is going through ends the constitutional declaration will be abolished,” said Ali. “The president wants to ensure political, economic and social stability, not to dominate all powers.”
Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki met with SJC members on 25 November in an attempt to defuse the crisis. Mekki, who acted as a mediator between both parties, revealed to the press his own unhappiness with the constitutional declaration without going into details. “The crisis which took place between the presidency and the judiciary is about to be resolved soon,” he said.
Mekki insisted Morsi’s declaration is temporary and will be applied only to decisions on sovereign matters. He offered no definition of what these might be.
Before their meeting with the president the SJC issued a statement calling on protesting judges not to suspend work. “Despite SJC dissatisfaction with Morsi’s declaration judges should allow the presidency time to discuss and negotiate the declaration,” the statement read.
Although a large number of courts and prosecutions witnessed either a partial or total work stoppage, judges at the Administrative Court said on Sunday that any decisions made by the Judges Club should only be implemented after gaining the SJC approval.  
During Saturday’s Judges Club general assembly Al-Zend asked judges and prosecutors to stop work until Morsi withdraws the constitutional declaration.
“The country’s fate is in our hands. If we do not unite now the country will be lost along with its judicial system,” he said.
During the extraordinary meeting hundreds gathered outside the Higher Judiciary House to protest against  Morsi’s constitutional declaration. There were attempts by police to disperse protesters with tear gas.
The extraordinary meeting was attended by dismissed prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud along with hundreds of judges. Lawyers were also present at the meeting. Lawyers Syndicate Chairman Sameh Ashour and lawyer Mortada Mansour were among the attendees. Chairman of the Wafd Party Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, former opposition MP Mustafa Bakri, former MP Mohamed Abu Hamed and Nasserist veteran journalist Adel Hammouda also took part, as did members of the Liberal Constitution Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
“If you strike we will follow your steps. If you decided to conduct a sit-in you have our full support,” said Ashour.
Mahmoud told attendees that he has already filed a lawsuit before the SCC against his sacking. “I urge the president to drop the declaration in order to maintain the independence of judiciary system,” he added.
Many prosecutors as well as general attorneys have submitted petitions to the SJC asking to quit their current posts and resume their seats on the bench. The attorney-general of west Alexandria Abdel-Salam Amin and attorney-general of east Alexandria Hisham Hamdi were among those who filed such petitions in support of Mahmoud.
Twenty members of the Independent Judiciary Movement issued a statement on 24 November refuting the presidential declaration.
“This is an unjustified dictatorship that hinders the independence of the judiciary, freedoms and rights,” said the statement.
The Judges for Egypt movement, which held a separate meeting from the Judges Club, came out in support of Morsi’s declaration and questioned the legality of Al-Zend’s own general assembly.
In collaboration with the Judges for Egypt movement the legal consultant of the Development and Construction Party Adel Muawad submitted a complaint to Prosecutor-General Talaat Ibrahim against Ashour and Al-Zend.
“It is illegal to issue decisions during judges’ extraordinary meeting when lawyers, artists and politicians are present,” said Muawad. “I also filed a complaint against them for inciting judges and prosecutors to strike.

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