November 23, 2012

Egypt leader grants himself far-reaching powers

Fresh from his diplomatic triumph in Gaza, President Mohamed Morsi asserts sweeping control; liberal critics have labeled him the ‘new pharaoh.’

The Associated Press

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Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued constitutional amendments Thursday that put him out of reach of judicial oversight.

The Associated Press

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An Egyptian protester chants slogans and holds a cross and a Quran in Tahrir Square on Frida. Supporters and opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi staged rival rallies Friday after he assumed sweeping new powers, a clear show of the deepening polarization plaguing the country.

AP

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But Hamid also noted that Morsi has had broad unilateral power since the August military overhaul but had not frequently exercised it.

In the decree, Morsi declared the retrial of senior officials accused in the deaths of protesters during the country's 2011 revolution, a measure that appeared targeted at Mubarak and his associates. And he dismissed Egypt's Mubarak-era prosecutor general, immediately swearing in a new one.

Morsi also said the Islamist-dominated body that is drafting a new constitution could not be dismissed and extended its mandate by two months. It now has until February to finish its work. The constitution is expected to be put to a referendum, followed by legislative elections.

Minutes before the decree was announced in Cairo late Thursday afternoon, Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Morsi gathered in front of the country's high court. They chanted in favor of broader measures against a judiciary that remains dominated by Mubarak-era appointees.

But a competing crowd filled Tahrir Square. Some demonstrators brandished posters with split images of the faces of Mubarak and Morsi.

The attention of the world over the last week was focused on Egypt's dramatic intercession to end the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip and stop Palestinian rockets from being fired into Israel. But at home, the body writing the country's new constitution was fracturing over disputes about the role of religion in the document. Tahrir Square filled with demonstrators protesting economic problems and the acquittals and light sentences of Mubarak-era officials on charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

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