Ahead of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's meeting with senior judges, Egypt's justice minister said on Monday he believed Morsi would agree with the country's highest judicial authority on its proposal that would limit the scope of a presidential decree to expand Morsi's powers.
The statement issued by the Supreme Judicial Council on Sunday night said Morsi's decree should apply only to "sovereign matters", suggesting it did not reject outright the declaration, which has triggered violent street protests. The council meets Morsi later on Monday.
Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky, speaking about the council statement, said: "I believe President Mohamed Morsi wants that." His comments were reported by the official state news agency.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi will meet senior judges to try to ease a crisis over his seizure of new powers which has set
off violent protests reminiscent of the revolution last year that brought his
Islamist movement to power.
The protesters, some camped in Cairo's Tahrir
Square, have said only retracting his decree will satisfy them, a sign of the
deep rift between Islamists and their opponents that is destabilizing Egypt two
years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.
"There is no use amending the
decree," said Tarek Ahmed, 26, a protester who stayed the night in Tahrir, where
tents covered the central traffic circle. "It must be scrapped." One person has
been killed and more than 500 have been injured in clashes between police and
protesters since Mursi issued the decree on Thursday shielding his decisions
from judicial review. The stock market is down more than 7 percent.
political opponents have accused him of behaving like a new dictator and the
West has voiced its concern, worried by more turbulence in a country that has a
peace treaty with Israel and lies at the heart of the Arab
Mursi's office said he would meet Egypt's highest judicial
authority, the Supreme Judicial Council, on Monday, and the council hinted at
Mursi's decree should apply only to "sovereign matters", it
said, suggesting it did not reject the declaration outright, and called on
judges and prosecutors, some of whom began a strike on Sunday, to return to
The protesters are worried that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood aims to
dominate the post-Mubarak era after winning the first democratic parliamentary
and presidential elections this year.
Banners in Tahrir called for
dissolving the assembly drawing up a constitution, an Islamist-dominated body
Morsi made immune from legal challenge. Many liberals and others have walked out
of the assembly saying their voices were not being heard.
Only once a constitution is written can a new parliamentary election be held.
Until then, legislative and executive power remains in Morsi's hands, and
Thursday's decree puts his decisions above judicial oversight.
Brotherhood member was killed and 60 people were hurt on Sunday in an attack on
the main office of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian Nile Delta town of Damanhour,
the website of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said.
party's offices have also been attacked in other cities.
said the scale of the crisis could push opponents towards a deal to avoid a
further escalation. Morsi's opponents have called for a big demonstration on
"I am very cautiously optimistic because the consequences are
quite quite serious, the most serious they have been since the revolution," said
Mona Makram Ebeid, former member of parliament and prominent figure in Egyptian
"This is the most critical and most dramatic moment since the
revolution," she said. "He has succeeded in uniting the opposition camp who for
the time being seem to be unison.
Morsi's office repeated assurances that
the steps would be temporary, and said he wanted dialogue with political groups
to find "common ground" over what should go into the constitution.
talks have been rejected by members of a National Salvation Front, a new
opposition coalition that brings together liberal, leftist and other politicians
and parties, who until Morsi's decree had been a fractious bunch struggling to
"There is no room for dialogue when a dictator imposes the most
oppressive, abhorrent measures and then says 'let us split the difference',"
prominent opposition leader and Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday. He has said
he expected to act as the Front's coordinator.
The military has stayed
out of the crisis after leading Egypt through a messy 16-month transition to a
presidential election in June. Analysts say Morsi neutralised the army when he
sacked top generals in August, appointing a new generation who now owe their
advancement to the Islamist president.
Though the military still wields
influence through business interests and a security role, it is out of frontline
Images of protesters clashing with police and tear
gas wafting through Tahrir Square have been unsettling reminder of the uprising
that toppled Mubarak in February 2011 and violence that flared under army rule,
scaring investors and tourists.
Egypt had hoped to stop the economic rot
by signing an initial deal last week for a $4.8 billion loan from the
International Monetary Fund. As well as tumbling share prices, yields at a
Sunday treasury bill auction rose, putting even more pressure on the government
that faces crushing budget deficit.
"We are back to square one,
politically, socially," said Mohamed Radwan of Pharos Securities, an Egyptian
Morsi's decree marks an effort to consolidate his
influence after he sidelined Mubarak-era generals in August and reflects
suspicions of a judiciary little reformed since Mubarak's time.
just a day after Morsi received glowing tributes from Washington for his work
brokering a deal to end eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas, the
decree drew warnings from the West to uphold democracy. Washington has leverage
because of billions of dollars it sends in annual military aid.
administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms and
complete a democratic transformation. Leftists, liberals, socialists and others
say it has exposed his autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by
It protects the assembly writing the constitution from
dissolution before completing its work, and it now has a deadline of February.
The constitutional court, which has declared the Islamist-dominated lower house
of parliament void, was expected to rule on the validity of the assembly on Dec.
Many of Morsi's political opponents share the view that Egypt's
judiciary needs reform, though they disagree with his methods. Morsi's new
powers allowed him to sack the prosecutor general who took his job during the
Mubarak era and is unpopular among reformists of all stripes.