Egypt judges halt work

  • Judges in Egypt have suspended their work and refused to oversee a vote on the country's new draft constitution.

    The Judges' Club's decision on Sunday comes after clashes between the Supreme Constitutional Court and Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi.

    The court said it was suspending its work because its members were prevented from ruling on the legitimacy of the body that drew up the constitution.

    Opposition groups have called for protests against the referendum on Tuesday.

    "The National Salvation Front condemns the irresponsible act by the president of the republic in calling a referendum on an illegitimate constitution that is rejected by a large section of his people," an alliance of opposition groups said in a statement.

    Soon after the Supreme Constitutional Court suspended its work, the Judges' Club, a union that represents the profession nationwide, said it had rejected the judges' traditional role of electoral oversight for the referendum.

    "We have decided to boycott the supervision of the referendum on the constitution scheduled for December 15, 2012," the club's head Ahmed al-Zind announced.

    Supporters of Morsi were seeking to block any ruling that would raise reservations over the document's legality.

    On November 22, Morsi issued a decree granting himself sweeping new powers.

    According to the decree, Morsi's decisions cannot be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary, until a new constitution has been ratified and fresh parliamentary elections are held.

    The draft constitution, which has triggered widespread protests, was passed by the constituent assembly on Thursday night.

    If approved, it will overwrite all constitutional declarations, including Morsi's decree, and a new parliament is likely to be elected within 60 days.