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Egypt's Morsi to meet with judges over power grab (+video)

The country's Supreme Judicial Council has hinted there may be a compromise with Morsi in the works. Meanwhile, the Egyptian stock market suffered heavy losses over the weekend.

By Yasmine Saleh and Edmund BlairReuters / November 26, 2012

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to supporters outside the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.

Aly Hazaza, El Shorouk/AP

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Cairo

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi meets senior judges on Monday to try to ease a crisis over his seizure of new powers which has set off violent protests reminiscent of the revolution last year that led to the rise of his Islamist movement.

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Supporters and opponents of Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, grew more entrenched over his move to assume near absolute powers as protests continued on Sunday. However, Morsi's office said his recent edicts are temporary. (Nov. 25)
Video Length: 00:01:06

The justice minister said he believed Morsi would agree with the country's highest judicial authority on its proposal to limit the scope of the new powers.

But the protesters, some camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square, have said only retracting his decree will satisfy them, a sign of the deep rift between Islamists and their opponents that is destabilising Egypt two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

"There is no use amending the decree," said Tarek Ahmed, 26, a protester who stayed the night in Tahrir, where tents covered the central traffic circle. "It must be scrapped."

One person has been killed and about 370 have been injured in clashes between police and protesters since Morsi issued the decree on Thursday shielding his decisions from judicial review, emboldened by international plaudits for brokering an end to eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas.

The stock market is down more than 7 percent.

Morsi's political opponents have accused him of behaving like a new 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.

Morsi's administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation. Leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.

Morsi's office said he would meet Egypt's highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council, on Monday, and the council hinted at compromise.

Morsi's decree should apply only to "sovereign matters", it said, suggesting it did not reject the declaration outright, and called on judges and prosecutors, some of whom began a strike on Sunday, to return to work.

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky, speaking about the council statement, said: "I believe President Mohamed Morsi wants that."

LIBERALS ANGRY

The protesters are worried that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood aims to dominate the post-Mubarak era after winning the first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections this year.

A deal with a judiciary dominated by Mubarak-era judges, which Morsi has pledged to reform, may not placate them.

Banners in Tahrir called for dissolving the assembly drawing up a constitution, an Islamist-dominated body Morsi made immune from legal challenge. Many liberals and others have walked out of the assembly saying their voices were not being heard.

Only once a constitution is written can a new parliamentary election be held. Until then, legislative and executive power remains in Morsi's hands, and Thursday's decree puts his decisions above judicial oversight.

One Muslim Brotherhood member was killed and 60 people were hurt on Sunday in an attack on the main office of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian Nile Delta town of Damanhour, the website of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said.

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