Monday, January 14, 2013

Egypt Activists Stage Sit-In Outside High Constitutional Court

Egypt activists stage sit-in outside High Constitutional Court

Ahram Online, Monday 14 Jan 2013

Opposition groups rally at Egypt's High Constitutional Court in anticipation of Tuesday's contentious verdict regarding constitutionality of parliament's empowered upper house

Dozens of protesters began a sit-in at Egypt's High Constitutional Court (HCC) on Monday afternoon. The sit-in was planned in anticipation of an HCC verdict on Tuesday on whether or not the Shura Council – the upper house of Egypt's parliament – will be dissolved.

Among the groups to announce their participation in the sit-in are the April 6 youth movement, the Free Egyptians Party and the Egyptian Popular Current. The sit-in will continue from Monday to Tuesday.

The lower house of parliament was dissolved last summer after theHCC ruled against its constitutionality. On 22 November, President Mohamed Morsi issued a constitutional declaration making Egypt's constituent assembly (tasked with drafting a new constitution) and Shura Councilimmune from dissolution and steeling his decisions against judicial appeal.

In late November and early December, thousands took to the streets to protest a proposed constitution and Morsi's constitutional declaration. Morsi supporters likewise hit the streets in support of the declaration, leading the HCC to freeze all its sessions indefinitely to protest the pressure exerted upon it by the president's supporters who had at one point gathered outside the court building.

Judges also declared a partial strike in response to Morsi's declaration, saying it infringed upon judicial authority.

The Shura Council, which will hold legislative power until the election of a new People's Assembly in April, now awaits Tuesday's decision on whether or not it will be dissolved.

Hussam Fouad, secretary of the Free Egyptians Party's youth committee, said in a statement released by the party on Saturday that party members would "participate in a peaceful protest to affirm the independence of the judiciary and support the constitutional court in performing its role."

Fouad added that the party supported any activity aimed at protecting justice, the rule of law and the sovereignty of the judiciary, regardless of the nature of its verdicts.

Members of political parties, revolutionary and national movements and individual activists set out from Cairo's Maadi district to the nearby HCC building at 5pm on Monday.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim visited the HCC Monday morning to conduct security measures. Ibrahim also met with police in the area, asking them to step up efforts to protect vital state institutions.

The Egyptian Popular Current, the political coalition created by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, had announced plans to participate in the sit-in last Thursday and protect the court and its judges from alleged Muslim Brotherhood militias. Last week, the Popular Current referred to the surrounding of the HCC by Brotherhood supporters during November and December sit-ins against Morsi's constitutional declaration.

The current has also called on its members – along with other interested parties – to rally in Maadi's Etihad Square on Monday afternoon, from where it plans to move to the HCC for continued demonstrations until Tuesday.

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