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Islamist protesters force Egypt court to halt session

world Updated: Dec 03, 2012 00:47 IST

Hundreds of supporters of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi protested on Sunday outside a top Egyptian court, forcing judges to delay a hearing on a constitutional panel at the heart of a deepening crisis.

The Supreme Constitutional Court could not even begin sitting when it called an “administrative delay” to the session that would have also looked into the status of the Islamist-dominated senate, a judicial official said.

Any rulings would have escalated a crisis with Morsi, who in a decree expanding his powers barred the court from examining the case, before the panel adopted the constitution on Friday.

Both the judicial official and state television did not say when the court would hold any new session.

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The Islamists, many wrapped in blankets and carrying posters of Morsi, had spent the night outside the courthouse in a bid to prevent its judges from entering.

The disputed draft constitution -- which declares “the principles of Islamic sharia” as the main source of legislation -- is to be put to a referendum on December 15.

It has fuelled the country’s worst political crisis since Morsi’s election in June, squaring Islamist forces against secular-leaning opponents.

Mass rival rallies preceded Morsi’s referendum announcement on Saturday, a day after crowds thronged to Tahrir Square to denounce his “dictatorial” decree.

“One nation, two peoples,” read the front page of Al-Shuruq newspaper, while Al-Masri al-Youm ran with “Egypt at the mouth of a volcano”.

Sunday’s session on the legality of the constituent assembly, which drafted the new charter amid a boycott by secularists, liberals and Christians, would have defied a presidential decree barring any judicial body from dissolving the panel.

The protesters surrounded entrances to the courthouse and blocked off a main road that runs along the Nile leading up to it, trying to prevent the judges from entering.

Constitution referendum on Dec 15
President Mohamed Morsi called on Egyptians on Saturday to vote in a December 15 referendum on the controversial draft constitution at the heart of a political crisis, amid mass Islamist rallies in Cairo.

Morsi made the announcement following a ceremony where he received a copy of the charter from the head of the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, boycotted by liberals and Christians, that adopted it the day before.

Hundreds of thousands of Islamists rallied from early on Saturday in support of Morsi’s new expanded powers and the contested charter.