Region | Egypt

Top court to decide fate of constitution panel

Move gives new lease of life to controversial Constituent Assembly

  • By Ramadan Al SherbiniCorrespondent
  • Published: 15:04 October 23, 2012
  • Gulf News

Cairo: The Administrative Court on Tuesday asked the Supreme Constitutional Court, Egypt’s top court, to rule on the legality of a panel tasked with drafting a new constitution, a move prolonging a dispute between the country’s liberals and Islamists.

More than 40 lawsuits have been filed against the commission, set up by the now-disbanded parliament, pushing for its dissolution.

The litigants claim that the composition of the Constituent Assembly violates a temporary constitution approved in a referendum in March last year, saying the panel unlawfully comprises members of parliament and government officials.

Chief Judge of the Administrative Court Farid Nazeeh did not explain the decision to suspend hearing the lawsuits and refer the whole case to the Constitutional Court.

The decision, announced amid tight security inside the courthouse in Cairo, practically gives a new lease of life to the panel, which has recently released the first copy of the draft resolution.

Supporters of the court decision chanted “Allah Akhbar (God is the Greatest”, as opponents shouted against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

The same court in April invalidated a previous constitution panel for being dominated by Islamists and including MPs.

Liberals have recently voiced worries that the assembly in its present make-up will produce a constitution restricting freedoms and discriminating against minorities.

The draft has, meanwhile, fallen of Islamists’ expectations who insist that the new constitution should explicitly state the enforcement of the Sharia law in this predominantly Muslim country.

The new constitution, expected to be put up for a public vote later this year, is to clearly identify Egypt’s identity, presidential powers and the army’s future role.

The Supreme Constitutional Court invalidated the Islamist-dominated parliament in mid-June, days before the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Mursi was elected as Egypt’s first civilian president.

The court later rejected a bid by Mursi to reinstate the parliament, a step that heightened tensions between the Islamist president and the judiciary.

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