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Egypt's Morsi to meet with top judges over power grab

President Mohamed Morsi is set to meet with the Egypt's top judges in an effort to defuse a crisis over a decree he issued granting himself sweeping new powers. Morsi has since called the new decree "temporary."

President Morsi is set to meet with senior judges on Monday, state television reported.

"During the meeting, the latest developments regarding the constitutional declaration will be discussed, in addition to the view of Egypt's judges and that of the Supreme Judicial Council," the state media broadcaster on Sunday quoted an unnamed judicial official as saying.

On Thursday, Morsi had announced a series of decrees that significantly increased his power. Among the changes, he banned judicial review of his actions and granted immunity from the courts to the constitutional assembly drafting the country's new constitution.

The Cairo Criminal Court said Sunday it would postpone all cases that did not relate to national security. Other courts and prosecutors’ offices across the country also took part in the protest."

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Egypt in crisis

The heads of Egypt's appeals courts issued a statement denouncing Morsi's actions, calling them "interference in the work and remit of the judiciary … and an attack on its independence.

Journalists around Egypt also called for a general strike, citing their concerns over press freedoms in the draft of the country's new constitution. The action was proposed during an emergency meeting of the Journalists Syndicate, which ended in physical confrontation between supporters and detractors of the Muslim Brotherhood - the organization that backed Morsi as a presidential candidate.

Morsi's power grab

The office of the president released a statement Sunday defending Morsi's actions, saying they were "deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as other crimes during the previous regime and the transitional period."

The statement stressed the "temporary nature" of the decrees, and asked "all political forces" to seek a common ground.

Morsi's detractors have described the decree as "dictatorial," with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei saying they gave Morsi the powers of a "new pharaoh."

The Supreme Judicial Council, the country's highest court, said that Morsi's decrees should only apply to "sovereign matters," and called on the striking judges to return to work.

Protests continued Sunday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak last year. The demonstrators clashed with riot police, who used teargas and erected a concrete wall to block direct access from the square to government buildings.

Protests began November 19 to mark the anniversary of deadly demonstrations against Egypt's interim military rulers last year. More than 500 people have been injured since Friday's escalation.

dr,hc/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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