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Egypt's president removes top Mubarak-era official

President Mohammed Morsi has ordered the dismissal of Egypt's prosecutor general. Abdel Maguid Mahmoud was hugely unpopular among revolutionary activists who accused him of being loyal to the ousted Mubarak regime.

Egypt's president took a step towards appeasing protesters on Thursday by opting to remove the Mubarak-era official from office. First appointed in 2006, Mahmoud was hugely unpopular among activists who had participated in the fall of the former regime.

As Egyptian law decrees that Morsi has no authority to sack the general prosecutor, the president instead opted to appoint him as a foreign ambassador, effectively removing him through promotion.

"President Mohammed Morsi issued a decree appointing Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud as ambassador to the Vatican," Ahmed Abdel Atti, Morsi's aide, said in a statement broadcast on state television on Thursday.

The legality of the dismissal has already been disputed. In an emergency meeting, judges in Cairo denounced Morsi's decision, asserting that Egyptian law on judicial authority gives immunity to judges.

Mahmoud's removal comes just a day after a court acquitted 24 high-ranking Mubarak loyalists who were accused of sending men on horseback and camels to attack protesters during last year's popular uprising.

Activists had accused Mahmoud of presenting "weak evidence" in the case, allowing them to escape without sentence. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Cairo on Thursday to protest against their acquittal. Several groups, including Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, have vowed to hold a mass protest on Friday to demand that the case be "retried."

Wednesday's verdicts join the ranks of a growing number of investigations into protesters deaths in which defendants were found not guilty due to lack of evidence.

Some 850 people were killed during 18 days of popular protests which resulted in the ouster of Mubarak on February 11, 2011. Mubarak is currently serving a life prison sentence on charges of complicity in the deaths of protesters.

ccp/av (Reuters, AFP, dpa)