CAIRO: Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi said yesterday that the sweeping new powers he assumed this week are meant to be temporary, and called for dialogue to find common political ground in the country.
“The presidency reiterates the temporary nature of the said measures, which are not meant to concentrate power, but... to devolve it to a democratically elected parliament... as well as preserving the impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid politicising it,” a statement from his office said.
Under a constitutional declaration on Thursday, Mursi can issue “any decision or measure to protect the revolution,” which are final and not subject to appeal.”
That touched off a showdown with judges over the path to a new constitution and sparked charges by the opposition that Morsi was taking on dictatorial powers.
The statement said it had been “deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as the other crimes during the previous regime and during the transitional period.”
That was a reference to the regime of long-time president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by a popular uprising early last year. Some 850 protesters were killed during the revolt, and hundreds more since.
Mursi ordered the reopening of investigations into those deaths, and new prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah said “revolutionary courts” would be set up that could see Mubarak, his sons and his top security chiefs retried “should there be new evidence.”
Mubarak and his interior minister were sentenced to life over the killing of protesters in last year’s popular uprising against him, but six security chiefs were acquitted in the same case sparking nationwide outrage.
The statement said “these measures will preserve the rights of martyrs and victims, which is a fundamental issue for the Egyptian public opinion.”
Yesterday’s statement said the presidency “stresses its firm commitment to engage all political forces in the inclusive democratic dialogue to reach a common ground and bridge the gap in order to reach a national consensus on the constitution, which will be the cornerstone of Egyptian modern institutions.”
Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood were readying nationwide demonstrations yesterday in support of Mursi in his showdown with judges.
A show of strength on the streets, expected after sunset prayers, has the potential for triggering clashes with opponents of the sweeping new powers Mursi and who remained camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The US embassy warned Americans to avoid all places where demonstrations were likely to be held as Western concern mounted over the potential of Morsi’s power grab to spark new violence in the Arab world’s most populous state.
A Brotherhood statement called on its well-organised supporters to hold demonstrations after sunset in all of Egypt’s main cities to “support the decisions of the president.”
The Brotherhood’s political arm insists that Mursi’s decree, which place his decisions beyond judicial review, was a necessary move to prevent the courts from disbanding the Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution.
Adding to the crisis, the Journalists Syndicate called for a general strike to demand that any new constitution protect press freedoms, but no date was set.
Tahrir Square, one of the capital’s crossroads, remained closed to traffic on Sunday as Morsi opponents pressed their sit-in.
By afternoon, more tents were erected in Tahrir, where protesters have been camping out since Friday to demand that Morsi rescind his decree.