Morsi tries to clear the air with Egypt's judiciary
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has invited all heads of judicial bodies to meet with him on Sunday at the Cairo presidential palace to discuss a resolution for ongoing disputes over the future of the country's judiciary.
Mahmed El-Beheiry, head of the High Constitutional Court (HCC); Mohamed Metwali, head of Cassation Court Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC); Gorbal Abdel Malak, head of the State Council, Anani Abdel Aziz; head of the administrative prosecution; and Mohamed El-Sheikh, head of the Egyptian State Lawsuit Authority (ESLA) have received invitations for the meeting.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Morsi hails, along with other Islamist forces have been calling on the Shura Council to pass a new judicial authority law, which would see the reduction of judges' retirement age from 70 to 60, something opposed by many judges and political forces.
The meeting on Sunday comes as an attempt to clear the air between both sides.
On the same day, Egypt's National Conscience Front, mainly made up of Islamist figures, lambasted veteran judge Ahmed El-Zend, a firce opponent of the president, for "demanding foreign interference" in domestic affairs, in the latest development in the judiciary-presidency conflict saga.
El-Zend, head of the unofficial judicial union the Judges Club, has been spearheading counterattacks on Islamist forces who have been calling for a "purge of the judiciary" while pushing forward controversial amendments to the judicial authority law.
In recent press conferences, El-Zend sounded disgruntlement with protests against the judicial system, expressing astonishment over the fact that the US "did not do anything concerning the flagrant encroachments of Egypt's judiciary."
El-Zend's statements drew fierce criticism, with many considering it as a call for the US to intervene in a domestic dispute.
On 19 April, thousands of Islamist demonstrators protested at the High Court in rallies called for by the Muslim Brotherhood to demand the "purging of the judiciary."
Opponents of the ruling Islamist group warned that the demands aimed at the "Brotherhoodisation" of the judiciary.
The demonstrations ended violently when anti-Brotherhood protesters attacked the demonstration.
Another protest was scheduled to take place last Friday, however the rallies were called off one day earlier "to allow for rational discussion of judicial authority law."
El-Zend, along with hundreds of judges, has been protesting the new proposed judicial authority law saying the purpose behind that law is to introduce new Brotherhood-loyal judges by replacing around 3,500 judges if new age caps pass.
The Shura Council's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved potential amendments to the judicial authority law. The amendments will be referred back to the Shura Council's general body for further discussion.
The Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, currently holds legislative authority until a new lower chamber of parliament – the House of Representatives – is elected.
El-Zend reiterated that only the House of Representatives is entitled to pass and amend laws, not the Shura Council. He also threatened that legal action would be taken against critics, should they keep on attacking the judicial system.
For his side, the deputy head of the Salafist Al-Watan Party Yosri Hammad warned Saturday that Egypt's El-Zend could face the death penalty over comments he made that were interpreted as an invitation for foreign intervention in the country.