An influential group of Egyptian judges said on Thursday a decree issued by Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi was assault on the country’s law and the independence of the judiciary.
Presented as a move to “protect the revolution,” Mursi ordered the retrials for Mubarak-era officials responsible for violence during the uprising against his rule, the decree shielded from legal challenge an Islamist-dominated assembly writing Egypt's new constitution.
The decree gave the same protection to the upper house of parliament, dominated by Islamists allied to Mursi, and assigned the president new powers that allowed him to sack the Mubarak-era prosecutor general and appoint a new one.
It stated that all decisions taken by Mursi until the election of a new parliament were exempt from legal challenge.
Egypt Judges Club Chairman Counselor Ahmad al-Zind told reporters that Mursi’s decree was “tragic,” adding that it “pained the nation.”
“This is an assault on the independence of the judiciary … The Egyptian people should decide their future,” Zind said.
The decree appeared to remove any uncertainty still hanging over the fate of the assembly writing the constitution. The body has faced a raft of legal challenges from plaintiffs who dispute its legality.
Critics say its popular legitimacy had been further called into doubt by withdrawals of many of its non-Islamist members who had complained their voices were not being heard.
The constitution is a crucial element in Egypt's transition to democracy. New parliamentary elections will not be held until the document is completed and passed by a popular referendum.
The decree also gave the body an additional two months to complete its work, meaning the drafting process could stretch until February, pushing back new elections.
"These decisions will feed discord in Egyptian politics and will be far from creating a favorable climate for restoration of economic growth," Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Reuters news agency.