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Egypt’s court slams constitutional panel

17 October 2012, 11:12

Cairo - Egypt's highest court on Tuesday criticised an Islamist-led commission in charge of drafting a new constitution, saying some of its proposals put the court back under the authority of the president.

"The proposed text gives the president the right to appoint the chairperson and members of the court," said court chairperson Maher al-Beheiry, adding that this allows the president to interfere in its work.

"Last year we finally got an amendment that does not allow the president to name the chairman and members of the court without the approval of its general assembly."

The criticism came amid tension between Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the judiciary, after he failed last week to remove public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud.

Mahmud refused to step down last week after Morsi ordered his removal to allay public anger over acquittals of officials from the ousted regime of president Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi had issued a presidential decree appointing Mahmud as Egypt's envoy to the Vatican.

The new constitution is to replace the 1971 charter suspended by the military, which took power when Mubarak was ousted in February last year.

The work and the composition of the 100-member panel has been the subject of heated debate.

Some articles, including those defining the powers of the judiciary and the role of the army, have not been made available to the public.

Other contentious topics include the role of religion, the status of women and the scope of freedom of expression and faith.

Human Rights Watch has said while some articles in the draft guarantee certain civil, political and social rights, "other key provisions are inconsistent with international human rights standards and would pose a serious threat to the future of human rights in Egypt."

President of the commission, Hossam al-Ghariani, said on Tuesday that a final draft of the constitution would be put to a vote in the second week of November.



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