Egypt's Islamists seek to defuse crisis over decree

Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:06pm EST
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By Tom Perry and Marwa Awad

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's ruling Islamists tried to defuse a political crisis on Monday, with President Mohamed Mursi backing a compromise over his seizure of extended powers and his Muslim Brotherhood calling off a planned demonstration.

Mursi provoked outrage last week that led to violent protests when he issued a decree that put beyond judicial review any decision he takes until a new parliament is elected, drawing charges he had given himself the powers of a modern-day pharaoh.

Opponents plan to go ahead with a big demonstration on Tuesday to demand he scrap the decree, threatening more turmoil for a nation that has been stumbling towards democracy for almost two years since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

However, the Brotherhood, which was behind Mursi's election win in June, said it had called off a rival protest also planned for Tuesday in Cairo. Violence has flared when both sides turned out in the past.

Mursi's opponents have accused him of behaving like a dictator and the West has voiced its concern, worried by more turbulence in a country that has a peace treaty with Israel and lies at the heart of the Arab Spring.

Mursi held crisis talks with members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the nation's highest judicial body, to resolve the crisis over the decree that was seen as targeting in part a legal establishment still largely unreformed from Mubarak's era.

The council had proposed he limit the scope of decisions that would be immune from judicial review to "sovereign matters", language the presidential spokesman said Mursi backed.

"The president said he had the utmost respect for the judicial authority and its members," spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters in announcing the agreement.   Continued...

Protesters and activists stay in tents as they continue their sit-in, after Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi issued a decree temporarily widening his powers and shielding his decisions from judicial review, at Tahrir Square in Cairo, November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih