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Egyptian opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clash with anti-riot security forces, in Tahrir square, Cairo, yesterday.
CAIRO: Egypt yesterday plunged deeper into crisis since Islamist President Mohammed Mursi took office, with a top court going on strike to protest his decision to grant himself sweeping powers.
The Court of Cassation, the country’s top appeals court, said it would “suspend all work” until Mursi rescinds the decree that gave him unprecedented presidential powers that cannot be challenged by the judiciary.
A presidential source said yesterday that Mursi will address the nation today. Protesters have said Mursi’s decree gives him dictatorial powers but the source explained Mursi would seek to clarify otherwise. “The president will address the nation on state TV on Thursday evening and will speak about the constitutional decree and why it was issued as well as the events that ensued afterwards,” said the source.
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood with knowledge of how the decree came about said that Mursi, his vice president Mahmoud Mekki, and two other independent legal experts started working on the decree in October after he failed to remove the then prosecutor general Abdel Maguid Mahmoud.
Mursi’s move triggered an outcry from judges who said he had exceeded his powers and large protests by Egyptians who accused him of attempting to take on the powers of a dictator.
“The president and his vice president began in October to work privately in the evenings after work with two legal experts to draft the decree that would allow him to remove the public prosecutor, among other matters,” said the source who chose to remain anonymous.
He said that Mursi chose to keep his advisers in the dark to avoid any leaking of the decree to the media or the judiciary. The Muslim Brotherhood was not also aware of the decree, he said.
Police fired tear gas into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where hundreds of protesters spent the night after the mass rally. Clashes that erupted on streets just off Tahrir, near the US embassy, spilled into the square, with canisters falling into the crowd forcing protesters to run and sending clouds of tear gas over the tents housing the demonstrators.
The outskirts of the square have seen sporadic skirmishes for nine days since a protest was begun to mark the one-year anniversary of deadly confrontations with police in the same area. In Mahalla, 132 people were injured while 27 were hurt in Port Said, medical sources said.