Hands tied

A man kisses a portrait of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy during a gathering of thousands of Islamists in front of Cairo University on Saturday, December 1

CAIRO — Protests by Islamists allied to President Mohamed Mursi forced Egypt’s highest court to adjourn its work indefinitely yesterday, intensifying a conflict between some of the country’s top judges and the head of state.

The Supreme Constitutional Court said it would not convene until its judges could operate without “psychological and material pressure”, saying protesters had stopped the judges from reaching the building.

Several hundred Mursi supporters had protested outside the court through the night ahead of a session expected to examine the legality of parliament’s upper house and the assembly that drafted a new constitution, both of them Islamist-controlled.

The cases have cast a legal shadow over Mursi’s efforts to chart a way out of a crisis ignited by a November 22 decree that temporarily expanded his powers and led to nationwide protests against him and his Muslim Brotherhood group.

The court’s decision to suspend its activities appeared unlikely to have any immediate impact on Mursi’s drive to get the new constitution passed in a national referendum on December 15.

Judges supervise voting in Egypt, and Mursi will need them to oversee the referendum.

But in a blow to the president, an influential body representing judges decided yesterday not to oversee the vote, the state news agency reported. The Judges’ Club’s decisions are not binding on members, however.

Vice President Mahmoud Mekky said he was confident the judges would perform that role, despite calls by Mursi’s critics in the judiciary for a boycott.

Three people have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests and counter-demonstrations over Mursi’s decree. (Reuters)

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