Revolt mounts in Egypt over judges

The draft law that would have lowered the mandatory retirement age of judges to 60, forcing out many Mubarak-era senior judges who are seen as hostile to Egypt's 2011 democratic revolution.

Revolt mounts in Egypt over judges

World Bulletin/News Desk

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi faced a mounting revolt against attempts to retire thousands of judges as his own legal adviser quit on Tuesday, three days after the justice minister tendered his resignation.

Mohamed Fouad Gadalla resigned in protest at what he called an "attempt to assassinate the judiciary and undermine its independence", according to a letter to Mursi published by the state-owned Al Ahram daily's website. The president's office said it was aware of the report and had no immediate comment.

The new blow came despite the ruling party's efforts to calm a political furore by sending a judicial reform bill that would force the retirement of more than 3,000 judges to a parliamentary committee for further consideration.

After emergency talks with the Supreme Judicial Council and the prosecutor general on Monday, Mursi's office issued a late-night statement saying the president considered protecting the independence of the judiciary was his constitutional duty.

The liberal opposition had condemned a draft law that would have imposed mandatory retirement on judges at 60 instead of 70, forcing out many senior judges who have angered the supporters of Mursi by annulling election laws and acquitting officials who served under the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak.

The political battle over the judiciary has become another obstacle to efforts by the United States, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to promote political reconciliation to help Egypt fight a deep economic crisis.

The speaker of the upper house of parliament told lawmakers the bill proposed by the moderate Wasat Party had been referred to the constitutional affairs committee, which would study it and compile a report.

That means it will no longer be rushed through parliament on Wednesday as initially planned, allowing more time for a possible compromise.

BROTHERHOOD DEMONSTRATION

Only days after the Brotherhood staged a mass demonstration in Cairo to demand a "purification" of the judiciary, its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, distanced itself from the draft. Sobhi Saleh, a senior FJP lawmaker, told Al Jazeera's Egyptian news channel the bill was just a proposal.

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky tendered his resignation on Saturday after the demonstration against the judiciary, seen as infested with Mubarak-era appointees hostile to Egypt's 2011 democratic revolution.

Most of the laws and judges date back to Mubarak’s authoritarian rule and some have been used to frustrate the plans of new bodies elected since the uprising.

Mubarak and his former interior minister were sentenced to life imprisonment last year for complicity in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators during the revolution, but an appeals court threw out the verdict in January and ordered a retrial, which has already stalled once and is due to start on May 11.

Mursi has said he plans a cabinet reshuffle, expected next week, that Western officials hope may bring a more inclusive, politically balanced government and enable the National Salvation Front (NSF) to drop plans to boycott parliamentary elections due later this year.

Last Mod: 24 Nisan 2013, 10:05
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