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On the brink

Egyptians on the streets of Cairo opposing Mursi’s recent decree.

CAIRO — Hundreds of demonstrators were in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a sixth day today, demanding that President Mohamed Mursi rescind a decree they say gives him dictatorial powers, while two of Egypt’s top courts stopped work in protest.

Five months into the Islamist leader’s term, and in scenes reminiscent of the popular uprising that unseated predecessor Hosni Mubarak last year, police fired teargas at stone-throwers following protests by tens of thousands on Tuesday against the declaration that expanded Mursi’s powers and put his decisions beyond legal challenge.

Protesters say they will stay in Tahrir until the decree is withdrawn, bringing fresh turmoil to a nation at the heart of the Arab Spring and delivering a new blow to an economy already on the ropes.

Courts threaten action

Egypt’s Cassation and Appeals courts said they would suspend their work until the constitutional court rules on the decree, which has further damaged Mursi’s already testy relationship with the country’s judges.

In a speech on Friday, Mursi praised the judiciary as a whole but referred to corrupt elements he aimed to weed out.

A spokesman for the Supreme Constitutional Court, which declared the Islamist-led parliament void earlier this year, said today that it felt under attack by the president.

“The really sad thing that has pained the members of this court is when the president of the republic joined, in a painful surprise, the campaign of continuous attack on the Constitutional Court,” said the spokesman Maher Samy.

Senior judges have been negotiating with Mursi about how to restrict his new powers, while protesters want him to dissolve an Islamist-dominated assembly that is drawing up a new constitution and which Mursi protected from legal review. (Reuters)

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