Top News: Return of Egypt People’s Assembly Dogged by Legal, Constitutional Ambiguity


There has been considerable debate within legal circles as to whether it is within Morsi’s mandate to overturn military dictates via presidential decrees. "It all depends on whether the SCAF was acting in its legislative capacity – which the military council assumed upon the dissolution of parliament last month – or whether it was relying on its executive power in its capacity as acting president," Aly Shalakany, partner at the Cairo-based Shalakany Law Firm, told Ahram Online


Presentation and full English text of Morsi’s decree reestablishing Parliament

[Al Ahram (Arabic) Ahram Online, 7/9/2012]

President asserts power, pundits and politicians mixed over move

[Daily News Egypt, 7/9/2012] President Mohamed Morsy’s decision on Sunday to reinstate Egypt’s People Assembly elicited mixed reviews from Egyptian politicians and political observers, most of whom believe the president asserted his political power to directly challenge the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces. Ahmed Maher, a political activist and co-founder of the April 6 movement, was elated after learning about the decision from a Daily News Egypt reporter who broke the news to him. “This is a good thing,” Maher said. “It’s wonderful because Morsy took the legislative authority away from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).” Tarek Al-Malt, member of the political bureau of the Al-Wasat Party, said the president’s move was a good sign, but was worried about the political fallout that might occur in response to the legality of the decision. “The decision is very good regardless of what we will be hearing in the next few days about the legality or constitutionality of the decision.” Al-Malt said the president’s decision is a solid middle ground move that should alleviate Egypt’s “legislative crisis.” Hesham Akram, a member of the Justice Party, was not pleased with the decision. Akram said the decision seemed suspicious and described the president’s actions as “strange timing.” “This is a disastrous situation that we are in now,” Akram said. “How can the president overstep the judicial authority when he’s taken an oath to respect the law?” Akram said he wished the news was false. He fears that the decision will bring us into a confrontation with the SCAF. “The decision will certainly be appealed in the next few days,” he said. Essam Shiha, member of the Wafd higher committee, was upset with President Morsy’s decision which he thinks will lead to a confrontation between the ruling institutions over legal boundaries. “This sends a passive message to the Egyptian people,” Shiha said. “Their president seems be assuming his powers by overruling judicial rulings.”

Top presidential candidates slam Morsi’s decree reinstating Egypt parliament

[Ahram Online, 7/9/2012] Former presidential candidates Khaled Ali, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh have all expressed their disapproval of the decree issued Sunday by recently-inaugurated President Mohamed Morsi reinstating the People’s Assembly (the lower house of Egypt’s parliament), dissolved last month by order of the military. "This is a power struggle and an insult to the law," Ali, a labour lawyer and leftist activist, declared on Twitter. "Don’t preach about the application of the law only when revolutionaries are in jail and those who killed the martyrs go unpunished." The Nasserist Sabbahi, for his part, who came in third in the first-round presidential vote, echoed this sentiment, describing Morsi’s decree as "a waste of legal authority." Sabbahi went on to urge Egypt’s High Constitutional Court (HCC) to provide a rationale for its ruling last month declaring a parliamentary elections law – which governed last year’s legislative polls – to be unconstitutional, so as to eliminate any confusion in this regard. Moderate Islamist Abul-Fotouh, meanwhile, called Morsi’s decree "unconstitutional," saying it would "open the doors to breaking the state of law." Abul-Fotouh declared on Twitter that the only way to ensure both respect for the court ruling and the will of the people was "to call for speedy parliamentary elections."


People’s Assembly security allows MPs in after reinstatement

[Ahram (Arabic) Egypt Independent, 7/9/2012] People’s Assembly security officers allowed MPs to enter the building on Monday after the general secretariat received President Mohamed Morsy’s decree to reinstate Parliament, state news agency MENA quoted sources as saying. Morsy on Sunday issued a presidential decree to cancel the decision of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to dissolve the People’s Assembly in accordance with a court ruling. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on 14 June that parts of the elections law were illegal because they allowed candidates running on party lists to compete for seats allocated to independent candidates.

Return of Egypt People’s Assembly dogged by legal, constitutional ambiguity

[Ahram Online, 7/8/2012] There has been considerable debate within legal circles as to whether it is within Morsi’s mandate to overturn military dictates via presidential decrees. "It all depends on whether the SCAF was acting in its legislative capacity – which the military council assumed upon the dissolution of parliament last month – or whether it was relying on its executive power in its capacity as acting president," Aly Shalakany, partner at the Cairo-based Shalakany Law Firm, told Ahram Online. If the SCAF did order the dissolution of parliament’s lower house in its executive capacity, he said, "what Morsi’s decree is saying is that, according to the 30 March 2011 Constitutional Declaration, when the president comes to power, he assumes full executive powers from the SCAF. Therefore, Morsi has the constitutional powers – as the executive authority – to reverse previous executive decisions, including the SCAF’s resolution dissolving parliament." One of the main debates surrounding Morsi’s decree, Shalakany continued, is whether the president has, in fact, assumed full executive powers, as this is not clearly spelt out in last year’s Constitutional Declaration. Secondly, said Shalakany, if the SCAF issued its resolution dissolving parliament using its legislative authority, Morsi’s decree would not stand, since legislative authority is not within the president’s mandate. The decree refers specifically to Morsi’s "executive powers." "According to Article 25 of the Constitutional Declaration, the president is not granted sub-point 2 of Article 56, which includes ‘approving or implementing public policy,’ a very broad term," said Shalakany. "It could be argued that Morsi’s revocation of the SCAF decree affects public policy – an action he cannot do."


In response to presidential decree, Egypt’s High Constitutional Court asserts its decisions "final and binding"

[Al Ahram (Arabic) Ahram Online, 7/9/2012] The general assembly of Egypt’s High Constitutional Court (HCC) held a meeting early Monday to discuss President Mohamed Morsi’s decree reinstating the People’s Assembly (the lower house of Egypt’s parliament), which was dissolved last month by order of the military. In its statement, the Court said that its decisions "are final and not subject to appeal, and that its provisions in cases of constitutional interpretation and decisions are binding on all state authorities." Egypt’s highest judiciary authority stressed that it is not a party in any political struggle that arises between the political forces and will not be used by any political force against another.  According to the HCC statement, it has received a number of lawsuits challenging the president’s decision to reinstate the dissolved parliament. "The HCC is the sole arbiter in all disputes relating to the implementation of its judgments and decisions," the statement reiterates.

Mubarak sons insider trading case begins, but is justice elusive?

[Egypt Independent, 7/9/2012] The trial of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, sons of the former president, and seven businessmen accused of insider trading to make illegal gains from the 2007 sale of Al-Watany Bank of Egypt began in a Cairo court today. For the Mubarak sons, it won’t be the first time they stand up in front of a judge at the Police Academy, where their father was sentenced to life in prison but acquitted of corruption charges alongside the sons. The remaining seven are subject to a travel ban, but not in prison. The Mubaraks denied all charges of criminal activity. “This has absolutely no basis in fact. I deny these charges in whole and in their details,” Gamal Mubarak said, according to Reuters. The question on many minds will be whether this time around the charges of corruption — which, according to the prosecution, include making illegal profits of just over LE2.5 billion — will be proven and charged appropriately. Many are skeptical. “The question is whether the evidence against the accused is strong and clear enough to convict them. This comes down to the work of the prosecution. But the law is enough to try and punish them. The court proceedings will make it clear what evidence the prosecution has,” said Hegazy El Wakil, a commercial transactions lawyer at Ibrachy & Dermarkar.


Morsy decision to reinstate Parliament stirs demonstrations

[Egypt Independent, 7/9/2012] President Mohamed Morsy’s decision Sunday to reinstate members of the lower house of Parliament, which had been dissolved by a June court ruling, sparked protests in favor of and against the move. Hundreds of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square supported Morsy’s decision to reconvene the People’s Assembly. The Supreme Constitutional Court had disbanded the assembly, saying articles of the electoral law were unconstitutional because they allowed party candidates to vie for seats allocated for independent candidates. In Nasr City, hundreds rallied outside the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier to denounce Morsy’s declaration, calling it a first step toward the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the country and saying Morsy backtracked on his promises to establish a civil state.

Campaign calls on Morsy to release military trials detainees

[Egypt Independent, 7/9/2012]  Members of the No to Military Trials campaign called on President Mohamed Morsy on Sunday to release all detainees tried before military tribunals, as a committee formed by the president to investigate the issue begun to meet. “We have a very bad history with investigative committees,” said journalist and campaign member Rasha Azab in a press conference held at the Journalists Syndicate. “Nothing has happened from tens of such committees to investigate violations by the military,” she added. Morsy has formed an investigative committee including representatives from the military judiciary, the military council, legal experts and prominent rights lawyer Ahmed Saif al-Islam Hamad. The campaign, launched in February last year to end military trials of thousands of civilians, denounced Morsy’s decision to form the committee and urged him to use his executive and legal powers granted by him to pardon all detainees.

Police and lawyer tensions tighten after brawl

[Daily News Egypt, 7/8/2012] Lawyers continued their third day of a sit-in in front of the Nasr City police station, after a lawyer on Thursday became involved in a large brawl with policemen who refused to allow the man access to a client held at the station. The brawl drew the attention of lawyers’ syndicates across the country that joined in the civil disobedience as a show of solidarity. The tension between the lawyers and police disrupted the resumption of the Port Said massacre trial, which was scheduled to continue on Saturday but was delayed due to a number of lawyers’ syndicates weighing whether to deploy lawyers to police stations across the country to stage similar protests. Events escalated late night Thursday, after lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz was denied visiting a defendant inside the Nasr City police station. The lawyer was told the defendant was not inside the station. Abdel Aziz argued with the police and a verbal dispute quickly became a physical fist-fight between lawyers and policemen outside of the station. Around eight lawyers were injured along with several police officers during the fight.


Obama to meet Egypt’s first Islamist president in US in September

[Ahram Online, 7/9/2012] US President Barack Obama will meet Egypt’s first Islamist leader, the recently elected Mohamed Morsi, at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, a US official told AFP on Sunday. The United States has reached out carefully to Morsi as US officials predict a more complicated and less predictable relationship with a key regional ally. Morsi of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood was last month proclaimed to be Egypt’s first democratically elected president, a year and a half after street protests toppled veteran strongman and US ally Hosni Mubarak. Despite Morsi’s Islamist background, the confirmation of his election brought relief to Obama’s administration which feared that the military would not accept his victory and provoke new chaos in Egypt. Morsi put Washington further at ease shortly after his victory announcement when he pledged to be a leader for all Egyptians — where around 10 per cent of the population is Christian — and to honor the peace treaty with Israel.

Foreign Ministry demands Sudan release Egyptian journalist

[Egypt Independent, 7/9/2012] Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr contacted his Sudanese counterpart on Monday to discuss the Sudan’s ongoing detention of Egyptian journalist Shaimaa Adel. Adel, 25, who works for the privately owned Egyptian paper Al-Watan, was arrested last week while covering student protests in Khartoum. Ministry spokesperson Amr Roshdy said Amr demanded the journalist’s immediate release and permission for her to return to Egypt. The Sudanese foreign minister, Ali Ahmed Karti, promised to investigate the issue. The ministry has been working on the issue since Adel was first arrested on 3 July, Roshdy said.

Photo Credit: Reuters

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