Morsi moves to try and ease judicial concerns

President Mohamed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian president, will meet senior judges on Monday to try to ease a crisis over his seizure of new powers which has set off violent protests reminiscent of last year’s revolution which brought him to power.

Activists on Sunday were camped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a third day, blocking traffic with makeshift barricades to protest against what they said was a power-grab by Morsi. Nearby, riot police and protesters clashed intermittently.

One Muslim Brotherhood member was killed and 60 people were injured late on Sunday in an attack on the main office of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian Nile Delta town of Damanhour, the website of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said.

More than 500 people have been injured in clashes between police and protesters worried Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is trying to consolidate power.

The country’s highest judicial authority hinted at compromise to avert a further escalation, though Morsi’s opponents want nothing less than the complete cancellation of a decree they see as a danger to democracy.

The Supreme Judicial Council said Morsi’s decree should apply only to “sovereign matters”, suggesting it did not reject the declaration outright, and called on judges and prosecutors, some of whom began a strike on Sunday, to return to work.

Morsi will meet the council on Monday, state media said.

Morsi’s office repeated assurances that the measures would be temporary, and said he wanted dialogue with political groups to find “common ground” over what should go in Egypt’s constitution, one of the issues at the heart of the crisis.

Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, saw an effort by the presidency and judiciary to resolve the crisis, but added their statements were “vague”.

“The situation is heading towards more trouble,” he said.

Sunday’s stock market fall of nearly 10 per cent – halted only by automatic curbs – was the worst since the uprising that toppled Mubarak in February, 2011.

Morsi’s supporters and opponents plan big demonstrations on Tuesday that could be a trigger for more street violence.

“We are back to square one, politically, socially,” said Mohamed Radwan of Pharos Securities, an Egyptian brokerage firm.

Morsi’s decree marks an effort to consolidate his influence after he successfully sidelined Mubarak-era generals in August.

It reflects his suspicions of a judiciary little reformed since the Mubarak era.

Issued just a day after Morsi received glowing tributes from Washington for his work brokering a deal to end eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas, the decree drew warnings from the West to uphold democracy.

The Morsi administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms that will complete Egypt’s democratic transformation.

Yet leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.

“There is no room for dialogue when a dictator imposes the most oppressive, abhorrent measures and then says ‘let us split the difference’,” prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said

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