Delayed verdicts up tension
BY SARAH EL SIRGANY
Cairo: Tuesday was slated to be a field day in court — a series of cases scheduled for July 17 were set to determine the course of Egypt’s complex political scene.
But by the day’s end, no final rulings were made, leaving the scene as frayed and uncertain as it has been for weeks, marked by wrangling between the judiciary, the presidency and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
The Administrative Court considered several key cases: appeals to freeze President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to reinstate parliament; another one demanding the dissolution of the Shoura Council (Upper House of Parliament) like the People’s Assembly (PA) that was dissolved by Supreme Constitutional Court; a lawsuit against the military-issued constitutional addendum that gave SCAF broad powers including legislative authority; another contesting the new formation of the National Defense Council in which civilians are outnumbered by top brass; and a lawsuit contesting the formation of the second Constituent Assembly.
The cases of the Constituent Assembly and constitutional addendum were adjourned to Thursday, while the cases of the PA and Shoura Council were referred to State Council commissioners, a process lawyers expect to take two months.
A court official said that on Thursday the court will rule on the constitutional addendum, hear lawyers in the case against Morsi’s decree to reinstate parliament, and look into a recusal (judicial disqualification) request in the Constituent Assembly case.
Lawyer Mohamed El-Damity had requested the recusal of the court.
According to Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, the judges hearing the case are the same ones who had ruled to dissolve the first Constituent Assembly and hence have already formed an opinion before considering the new case and hence must be disqualified.
The decision to reschedule this hearing on July 17 instead of September as previously planned, was another cause for concern, according to Abdel Maqsoud.
MB supporters dominated the courtroom and demonstrated outside as well. Inside the court they shouted “felool” (meaning remnants of the former regime) to lawyers interviewed by the media during recess.
Fawzi El-Kilani, one of the lawyers who initiated the case against the formation of the Constituent Assembly, joked that the delay in announcing the verdict reminded him of the delayed verdict in the case of Salafi presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was booted out of the race last minute.
The lawsuit contesting the assembly was originally adjourned to September but was then pushed up to Tuesday. The Administrative Court had in April overturned the parliament’s decision to form the first Constituent Assembly upon the reasoning that there was a conflict of interest since MPs tasked with selecting the assembly were also voted into it.
The second assembly was then formed after a string of negotiations between political forces spurred by a SCAF ultimatum. Parliamentarians were given less seats with an agreement to split the 100-member assembly evenly between Islamist and non-Islamist forces.
A boycott of the voting by secular and liberal members and representatives of some state institutions, however, tainted the second assembly’s formation.
But they weren’t the only factors obstructing it.
As the debate over the exact meaning of Article 60 of the constitutional decree issued by the military in March 2011 continued, SCAF issued an addendum that gave it veto power over proposed articles in the draft constitution, as well as the ability to form a new one.
However, even with its legitimacy threatened, the assembly proceeded with its task and the sessions were even broadcast live on TV.
In anticipation of the ruling, Morsi this week formally ratified the law issued by the now-dissolved parliament regulating the formation of the Constituent Assembly. His legal advisers argue that this would place the case outside the realm of the Administrative Court and under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the same court that recommended the dissolution of parliament last month.
In another stunt, members of the Shoura Council, who were voted into the assembly, announced their resignation. This, they argued, would not give the court a chance to invalidate the assembly on the pretext that it includes MPs.
El-Kilani argued that Morsi’s recent decision to ratify the Constituent Assembly law could be deemed unconstitutional.
He wasn’t happy with the recusal request either. “It’s foot dragging and [it signifies] complacency,” he said.
He called upon SCAF to exercise its right, granted by the constitutional addendum it issued, to appoint a new assembly.
Despite the fact that the appeals filed against the addendum were still being considered by the court, El-Kilani does not believe it will be annulled.
“The constitutional addendum is a reference and cannot be the subjected to court rulings.” -The Egypt Monocle