Mursi draws fire with new Egypt decree

CAIRO Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:40pm EST

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi smiles during a meeting with South Korea's presidential envoy and former Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan (not in picture) at the presidential palace in Cairo October 8, 2012, a day after Mursi's ''Al Nhada (Renaissance) project. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi smiles during a meeting with South Korea's presidential envoy and former Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan (not in picture) at the presidential palace in Cairo October 8, 2012, a day after Mursi's ''Al Nhada (Renaissance) project.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi triggered controversy on Thursday by issuing a decree likely to lead to retrials of Hosni Mubarak and his aides but which was compared to the ousted leader's autocratic ways.

As well as ordering retrials for Mubarak-era officials responsible for violence during the uprising against his rule, the decree shielded from legal challenge an Islamist-dominated assembly writing Egypt's new constitution.

It gave the same protection to the upper house of parliament, dominated by Islamists allied to Mursi, and assigned the president new powers that allowed him to sack the Mubarak-era prosecutor general and appoint a new one.

It stated that all decisions taken by Mursi until the election of a new parliament were exempt from legal challenge.

Presented as a move to "protect the revolution", the decree won immediate praise from Mursi's allies but stoked fears among secular-minded Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies aim to dominate the new Egypt. It seemed likely to deepen the divisions that have plagued the post-Mubarak era.

"These decisions will feed discord in Egyptian politics and will be far from creating a favourable climate for restoration of economic growth," Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said.

Leading liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei, writing on his Twitter account, said Mursi had "usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh". But Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for the Brotherhood, described the move as "revolutionary and popular".

The decree appeared to remove any uncertainty still hanging over the fate of the assembly writing the constitution. The body has faced a raft of legal challenges from plaintiffs who dispute its legality.

Critics say its popular legitimacy had been further called into doubt by withdrawals of many of its non-Islamist members who had complained their voices were not being heard.

The constitution is a crucial element in Egypt's transition to democracy. New parliamentary elections will not be held until the document is completed and passed by a popular referendum.

The decree also gave the body an additional two months to complete its work, meaning the drafting process could stretch until February, pushing back new elections.

"VERY DANGEROUS"

The move to order a retrial of Mubarak-era officials will likely be popular among those who feel that revolutionary justice has yet to be served.

Mubarak, 84, was sentenced to life in prison in June for failing to prevent killings that occurred during the uprising that led to his February 11, 2011 downfall. He has been held in a prison hospital since his sentence was handed down.

Yet critics have faulted the process by which he and other officials were put on trial. One of the problems, they say, was that the Mubarak-era prosecutor general had not been replaced.

Mursi had tried to replace Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, the man sacked on Thursday, in October. The move kicked up a storm of protest from judges who said the president had exceeded his powers and was threatening their independence.

Mursi got around the problem this time by giving himself the power to appoint a new prosecutor general, Talat Abdullah, whose swearing-in was shown on state television.

Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch, said: "Egypt needed judicial reform and the public prosecutor is a Mubarak holdover, but granting the president absolute power and immunity is not the way to do it."

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (2)
IssueSkeptic wrote:
Please report the story accurately, or at least in its entirety. Alongside the sacking of the prosecutor general, Morsi has also decided to appoint himself god, and immunize by decree of law any decision he makes against appeal or over rule by the judiciary. All this is happening with the blessing of the U.S and much of the west. A new Iranian style theocracy is being created in Egypt right now with the blessing of other established “democracies”.

Nov 22, 2012 1:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Dem4ever wrote:
Morsi has inherited Mubarak’s corrupted good-old-boys club. He has to remove the Prosecutor General, that was appointed by Mubarak. Mubarak has given this dude a position for life, ‘Pope’ like position. The PG did not act on torture, killing of corruption cases that dated to Mubarak’s era. Egypt wealth was emptied by the old regime. Morsi has to clean house, before Egypt sees a real democracy.

Nov 22, 2012 6:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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