CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's prosecutor general on Thursday defied his president's order to step down to defuse public anger over acquittals in a case of brutality against protesters during last year's uprising that topped the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Critics charged President Mohammed Morsi with exceeding his mandate.
Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud was quoted by Egypt's official news agency as saying that he will remain in his post. His brief statement came just hours after Morsi ordered him to leave his position as prosecutor general and become the ambassador to the Vatican.
In a comment to a news website, The Seventh Day, Mahmoud said, "I am upset" over Morsi's order.
Egyptian law protects the prosecutor general from being ousted by the president, A judges' club called for an emergency meeting to protest Morsi's decree which they see as a blow to the judiciary.
Ahmed el-Zind, the head of the powerful association of judges, said that the judges will not bow to Morsi's decision.
"This is a farce ... we will not bow," he said and added, "the era of tyrants is over."
"O people of Egypt are you willing to topple down judiciary?" said el-Zind, an opponent to Morsi and his group The Muslim Brotherhood. "We announce from here our solidarity with the prosecutor general," he added.
It was not possible to reach presidency spokesmen to comment on Mahmoud's refusal to step down. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the country's Minister of Justice Ahmed Mecci has submitted his resignation.
Though Morsi's decision had considerable public support, it appeared similar to his move to restore the Islamist-dominated parliament to session despite a decree by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which dissolved it over election law violations. The parliament then met in a single, short session.
Morsi has been sending mixed messages to public. He has been shaking up the country's state institutions removing much hated figures from Mubarak's regime, but by replacing them with Islamists or sympathizers, he has sparked concerns from many liberal and secular parties.
The latest dispute over removing the prosecutor general carried a double message.
Morsi's goal appeared to be to appease public anger over the acquittal on Wednesday to 24 loyalists of Mubarak over their role in last year's attack on demonstrators, known as the "Camel Battle."
Many accused Mahmoud as failing, either intentionally or due to incompetence, to present a strong case against the accused, leading to their acquittal.
The defendants were found innocent on charges of manslaughter and attempted murder. Judge Mustafa Abdullah on Wednesday said the defendants were acquitted because witness testimony was weak and "driven by grudges between witnesses and the defendants due to partisan differences."