Cairo: A Cairo court hearing on the legitimacy of the committee drafting Egypt’s new constitution descended into chaos, with protests against the military prompting the judge to adjourn the session.
Demonstrators chanted “Down with military rule” and “Field Marshal, speak the truth”, a reference to army chief Mohammad Hussain Tantawi. With riot police and protesters massed outside, Judge Abdul Salam Al Najjar adjourned the session then relocated it to another courtroom, which was closed to the public as Muslim Brotherhood supporters pounded on the doors.
The protest underscored the political tensions in Egypt two weeks after the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammad Mursi, was sworn in as president following his election win. Mursi is struggling to shore up his authority against challenges from the judiciary and from the generals who took over running the country after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year.
Yesterday’s administrative court hearing focuses on the legality of the process by which the 100-member constitutional panel was elected. Secular politicians have complained it was skewed in favour of the Islamists, like a previous version of the panel that was abolished by court order.
A verdict dissolving the panel would allow the army to appoint a new one, under the expanded powers the generals awarded themselves before they formally handed over to Mursi last month.
That decree is also the subject of a court challenge, while another case could potentially dissolve the upper house of parliament. The lower chamber was disbanded last month by a court order enforced by the military council.
Mursi challenged that verdict by reconvening parliament last week, an effort curtailed by a rebuke from the constitutional court. He also backed the constitution committee this week by ratifying the law under which it was set up.
“People will not accept a constitution imposed on them and will not accept a pre-written one,” Essam Al Erian, the deputy head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told the state-run Al Ahram newspaper. “Conspiracies against the parliament will amount to nothing, and so will the conspiracies against the constitution-writing panel and the president himself.”