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Egypt political standoff continues

CAIRO — Brawls broke out in an Egyptian courtroom as judges tried to debate rulings today that could either bolster the country’s new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, or undermine him in his power struggle with the military.

Mursi’s allies in the Muslim Brotherhood hailed a “decisive” day in the country’s democratic transition and hundreds of supporters came to protest at the courthouse, accusing the generals of using the judiciary to undermine his authority.

Despite his election victory in June, Mursi has yet to form a cabinet and there is no fully functioning government, parliament or constitution for Egypt, deepening the sense of turmoil that has pushed the economy to the brink of a balance of payments and budget crisis.

Legal opinion is split on whether the Cairo administrative court will strike down Egypt’s constituent assembly, formed by an Islamist-dominated parliament with the tasked of re-writing Egypt’s constitution.

The divisions were reflected at the court, where members of the public pushed and elbowed lawyers and one other, angrily shouting demands and counter demands.

“Down, down with military rule,” cried supporters of the Brotherhood who want the constituent assembly to continue its work.

That drew an angry response from their opponents. “Down, down with the rule of the (Brotherhood’s) Supreme Guide,” shouted a woman as the courtroom descended into mayhem.

“Cancel the session,” said lawyer Nabiel Gabriel. “This isn’t justice… I am holding Mursi personally accountable for this chaos. He has a responsibility to establish order.”

Judge Abdel Salam el-Naggar told the crowd the court would not be intimidated and suspended proceedings to allow the atmosphere to cool before reconvening lawyers in a separate court chamber.

“This court has always taken pride that its chambers are open to the public,” he told them. “We were shielded by this public. But what happened in that chamber – is such terrorism appropriate?” (Reuters)

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