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Egypt draft constitution adopted, goes to referendum

Egypt's constituent assembly early today adopted a draft constitution that will be put to a referendum, chairman Hossam el-Ghiriani announced.

world Updated: Nov 30, 2012 11:13 IST

Egypt's constituent assembly early Friday adopted a draft constitution that will be put to a referendum, chairman Hossam el-Ghiriani announced.

The Islamist-dominated assembly, boycotted by liberals and Christians, approved the 234 articles in a marathon meeting that started shortly after noon on Thursday and went on all night.

The text, adopted unanimously according to Ghiriani, was to be sent to President Mohamed Morsi and a referendum held in two weeks.

The opposition, which has mobilised unprecedented rallies since Morsi assumed broad powers last week, accuses the president and allies in the constituent assembly of railroading the charter through for a quick referendum.

The constitution will replace the one suspended after president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in early 2011.

The opposition mostly disagreed with the rushed manner in which the assembly was operating and opposes some of of the draft charter's provisions on rights and freedoms.

Christians objected to an article that seeks to narrow the meaning of "the principles of Islamic law" to the tenets of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence.

Heba Morayef, Human Rights Watch Egypt director, said some of the draft articles on freedom of expression and religion resemble a "penal code".

"Some of the provisions are penal code provisions. You don't list all the things that you are not allowed to do, you're supposed to set up the rights and limitations," she said.

A number of private newspapers announced that they would not appear on the street on Tuesday to protest at what they consider to be a lack of press guarantees in the new charter.

Abdallah Sennawi, a member of the Committee to Defend Freedom of Expression and Thought, said private television channels would follow suit on Wednesday.

Morsi's decree, described by the opposition as dictatorial, stripped courts of the right to annul the controversial constituent assembly ahead of an expected court ruling on Sunday.

It shields Morsi's decisions from review by the judiciary, which he and his movement believe retains Mubarak-era appointees who are opposed to the Islamists.

The top Cassation Court has suspended work to protest against the decree, which will expire once the constitution is ratified.