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Egypt's crisis widens with planned march, strikes

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm •  Published: December 3, 2012
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The Islamists responded by sending hundreds of thousands of supporters into Cairo's twin city of Giza on Saturday. Thousands took to the streets and imposed a siege on Egypt's highest court, the Supreme Constitutional Court.

The court had been widely expected Sunday to declare the constitutional assembly that passed the draft charter to be illegitimate and to disband parliament's upper house, the Shura Council. Instead, the judges went on strike after they found their building under siege by protesters.

Three of Morsi's aides have resigned over his decrees. Two members of the official National Council of Human Rights quit Monday, describing the decrees as "disastrous." They expressed "real fears" of Brotherhood hegemony in Egypt.

The draft constitution has been criticized for not protecting the rights of women and minority groups. Critics say it empowers Islamic religious clerics by giving them a say over legislation, while some articles were seen as tailored to get rid of Islamists' enemies.

The draft has a new article that seeks to define the principles of Islamic law by pointing to theological doctrines and their rules. Another new article states that Egypt's most respected Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on any matters related to Shariah law, a measure critics fear could lead to oversight of legislation by clerics.

Rights groups have said that virtually the only references to women relate to the home and family, that the new charter uses overly broad language with respect to the state protecting "ethics and morals," and that it fails to outlaw gender discrimination.

In the past two days, social networks featured a widely circulated photo-shopped picture of the constituent assembly's Islamist chairman, Hossam al-Ghiryani, handing Morsi a copy of the draft. The cover of the document had an image of Mickey Mouse.

The powerful judges' union said Sunday that they would not oversee the referendum, as is customary — a move that would raise questions on the vote's legitimacy.

On Monday, however, the powerful Supreme Judiciary Council agreed to oversee the voting in a step that legal experts described as "routine."

In addition, Egypt's electoral commission, which is led by senior judges, was forced by law to hold a meeting Sunday to discuss preparations for the referendum.

Gaballah, Morsi's legal adviser, said the election commission held the meeting to organize the referendum. The state-owned Al-Akhbar daily ran a front page photo of the senior judges at the meeting, and Gaballah said that the judges will oversee the vote.

But Yousseri Abdel-Karim, a judge and a former spokesman of the electoral commission, said its mission is purely administrative, and the meeting did not mean that judges are going to oversee the referendum.

"Judges don't retreat and we fear nothing, and we will not change our position," he said.

Opposition figures have raised concerns about referendums because in past votes, large numbers of Egyptian voters — many of them illiterate — were easily swayed by Islamists who used religious sentiment to influence the outcomes.

With little time left before the vote, the opposition has yet to come up with a strategy for the referendum. It could try to besiege the headquarters of the election commission. Or it could try to rally supporters to vote "no."