Egypt court blocks creation of constitutional assembly (REUTERS) By Yasmine Saleh and Dina Zayed CAIRO, EGYPT 04/10/12 10:32am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Tuesday halted a move to create a
new constitutional assembly pending a ruling on its legality,
challenging the legitimacy of a body spurned by liberal and Christian
groups because of its domination by Islamists.
The injunction slapped on the decision by parliament could delay the
introduction of a constitution needed urgently to clarify the powers
of Egypt´s new head of state, due to take over from ruling generals
Lawyers for the state say the court has no say over the move to form
the constituent assembly, which has pressed ahead with its work even
though dozens of non-Islamist representatives have quit, complaining
that their voices are being drowned out.
The latest dent to the body´s authority drew a measured response from
the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement which holds most seats
in parliament and chairs the assembly.
"I respect all rulings and call on all national forces to sit
together to reach better solutions to overcome this crisis,"
Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater said in a
statement on the movement´s website.
The court´s judge, Ali Fekri, rejected legal arguments saying it was
not qualified to rule on the issue and said it had decided to halt
the decision that formed the assembly. He passed on the case´s
documents to a judicial panel for a review.
The case, brought by lawyers and activists, follows several lawsuits
demanding the dissolution of the assembly on the grounds that it
fails to represent Egypt´s diversity.
"We expect parliament to appeal the verdict before the supreme
administrative court but until the appeal gets ruled on, the current
constitutional committee has no existence," said the main lawyer in
the team who filed the case, Essam al-Islamboly.
Selected by parliament, the 100-member constitutional assembly is
composed mostly of Islamists, who won the majority of seats in
Egypt´s first free parliamentary vote in decades.
Only a handful of seats were reserved for youth groups, women and for
Christian Copts, who said they plan to boycott the assembly,
following the example of liberal groups and the country´s highest
Sunni Islamic institution al-Azhar, who all withdrew from the
A representative of Egypt´s Supreme Constitutional Court also
withdrew in protest.
"This ruling will allow the Egyptian people to protect the January 25
revolution from the hegemony of the Islamist current and from the
Muslim Brotherhood that seeks to polarize and bar civilian
politicians who participated in the revolution," rights activist
Youssef Abdel Khalek.
A top judge, Zaghloul al-Balshy, vice chairman of the Court of the
Cassation, told Reuters that Tuesday´s court decision meant "the make-
up of the assembly has to be reconsidered and the new representation
has to represent the entire society."
The current constitution was suspended by the army in February last
year, shortly after it took power from Egypt´s long-serving
autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak, who was forced out by a popular
The new constitution will define the balance of power between
parliament and the president, the influence of Islamic sharia law
over statute and society and the extent of the army´s influence over
the government and freedom from supervision.
An army representative attending the assembly´s second meeting last
week urged political powers to put their differences aside and said
the constitution writing process would not delay handing power to an
(Additional reporting by Sherine El Madany and Tamim Elyan; Writing
by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Myra MacDonald) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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