Morsi Issues Declaration Widening His Powers, Baradei Calls Him a 'New Pharaoh'إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi assumed sweeping powers on Thursday, putting him on a collision course with the judiciary and raising questions about the country's democratic future.
The move, just a day after Morsi took diplomatic centerstage in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers, earned him the same derisive monicker of "new pharaoh" leveled at veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak before his ouster in a popular uprising last year.
"The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution," according to a decree read out on television by presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.
"The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal."
The move is a blow to the pro-democracy movement that toppled Mubarak last year, and raises concerns that Islamists will be further ensconced in power.
Nobel laureate and former U.N. atomic energy agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei lashed out at the declaration, which effectively puts the president above judicial oversight.
"Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences," ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter account.
Morsi also sacked prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, whom he failed to oust last month, appointing Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah to replace him, amid strong misgivings among the president's supporters about the failure to secure convictions of more members of the old regime.
Within minutes of the announcement, the new prosecutor was shown on television being sworn in.
The president in his pronouncements on Thursday ordered "new investigations and retrials" in the cases dealing with the deaths of protesters, a decision that could net senior military officials and see Mubarak reinvestigated.
He also said no judicial body can dissolve the upper house of parliament or the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly that is writing a new constitution and which has been criticized by the secular-minded opposition for failing to represent all segments of society.
He has also given the body -- which was due to issue a draft constitution in December -- two extra months to come up with a charter, that will then be put to a referendum.
The declaration is aimed at "cleansing state institutions" and "destroying the infrastructure of the old regime," the president's spokesman said.
Heba Morayef, Egypt Director at Human Rights Watch welcomed the retrials but criticized aspects of the declaration.
"What's fundamentally problematic and threatens both the rule of law and overall democratic checks and balances is his decision to give his decrees immunity from the judiciary until the constitution is passed," Morayef told Agence France Presse.
And while the independence of the judiciary has been in question in the past, "these sledgehammer tactics only alienate the legal community," she said.
"As a judge, I feel paralyzed," one judge at Egypt's State Council told AFP.
Even before the announcement was read out, Islamists had gathered outside the High Court in central Cairo demanding the "cleansing of the judiciary."
Morsi, who belongs to the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, is the first elected president since the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak last year.
Islamists scored a crushing victory in three-stage parliamentary elections held from November last year, with the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's former organization, dominating both houses of parliament.
The Brotherhood has long been the best organized political force in the Arab world's most populous state and secular activists had expressed fears that it would exploit the turmoil of Mubarak's overthrow to impose its will.