BEIRUT

Middle East

Egypt court to rule on Senate, constitution

A hand out picture released by Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi (R) giving a speech before the newly empowered senate in Cairo on December 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / HO / EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY

CAIRO: Egypt's top court was on Tuesday to rule whether Egypt's Islamist-dominated Senate should be dissolved as well as on the validity of a panel that wrote the country's controversial constitution.

In advance of the landmark rulings, dozens staged a sit-in overnight outside the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on the banks of the Nile in Cairo, as riot police formed a cordon around the building.

Two-thirds of the Senate, the 270-member upper house known as the Shura Council, were elected in a vote early last year, with one third appointed by President Mohamed Morsi in December.

Following several lawsuits arguing there were irregularities in the mechanism of the election, the court is to decide whether or not the Upper House -- which was given temporary legislative power -- is legal.

The court will also rule on the legality of an Islamist-dominated panel that drafted the country's constitution which is at the heart of the nation’s worst political crisis since the overthrow nearly two years ago of president Hosni Mubarak.

The opposition argues that the panel was not legitimate as it failed to represent all Egyptians after it was boycotted by liberals, leftists and Christians.

The charter has divided Egypt, pitting Islamist President Morsi and his backers against the opposition which includes secularists, leftists, Christians and also deeply religious Muslims sparking deadly protests across the nation ahead of its adoption.

"No to Muslim Brotherhood terrorism," read some the signs held up by protesters outside the court.

"The Muslim Brotherhood constitution is void. Mohamed Morsi is void," others chanted.

The new constitution immunises the Senate -- which holds temporary legislative power -- from dissolution until a new People's Assembly is elected, adding further confusion to the legal chaos plaguing the country.

The two cases were scheduled to be reviewed on December 2 but pro-Morsi protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) preventing judges from entering the court and prompting the court to suspend its work.

The latest political crisis was ignited by a decree issued by Morsi granting him sweeping powers and making his decisions immune from judicial review.

He later backtracked on the decree but rushed through the constitution which critics say fails to protect key rights and allows for varying interpretations of Islamic law.

 

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