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Egypt judiciary suspends constitution panel

The court, which deals with administrative issues, says its formation was "marred by misuse of power"

Gulf News

Cairo: An Egyptian court Tuesday suspended an Islamist-dominated panel set up by the parliament for drafting a new constitution and said its formation was "marred by misuse of power".

The ruling is seen as a victory for liberal powers in Egypt who have cried foul over Islamists' domination of the constituent assembly. Several protest and liberal groups had gone to the court in Cairo to challenge the make-up of the panel, which they said was unbalanced.

The Islamist-controlled parliament had voted to have the 100-member panel composed of 50 lawmakers, with the remaining half selected from civil institutions, professional unions and public figures. But since its formation last month, the panel saw the withdrawal of more than 20 members including representatives of the Sunni Al Azhar institution, the Coptic Church and the Press Syndicate.

There was no immediate comment from the parliament on the ruling issued by a court dealing with administrative issues. However, Ahmad Abu Baraka, a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood that holds nearly half of the parliament, said that the court has no jurisprudence to decide on the issue." The formation of the panel was made by the parliament based on its legislative powers that are not subjected to the administrative judiciary," he added.

The secularists urge for a more balanced commission, fearing that the Islamist grip does not lead to the strengthening of a demand for Islamic law Sharia to be the point of reference in the legislation.

The panel has in principle up to six months to draft a new constitution to replace the one suspended by the military, which took power after a popular uprising toppled president Hosni Mubarak last year.