Cairo, Dec. 2 (Reuters): Protests by Islamists allied to President Mohamed Mursi forced Egypt’s highest court today to adjourn its work indefinitely, 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.
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.
Three persons have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests and counter-demonstrations over Mursi’s decree.
At least 200,000 of Mursi’s supporters attended a rally at Cairo University on Saturday. His opponents are staging an open-ended sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the cradle of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled him to power in a June election, hope to end the crisis by pushing through the new constitution hastily adopted by the drafting assembly on Friday. The next day the assembly handed the text to Mursi, who called the referendum and urged Egyptians to vote.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is determined to go ahead with its own plans regardless of everybody else. There is no compromise on the horizon,” said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University.
Outside the Supreme Constitutional Court, Muslim Brotherhood supporters rallied behind the referendum date. “Yes to the constitution,” declared a banner held aloft by one protester. Chants demanded the “purging of the judiciary”.
The interior minister told the head of the court that the building was accessible and the protests were peaceful, according a statement from the ministry.