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    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Egyptian opposition activist calls million-man march

    Thousands of protesters began gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square after Egyptian opposition leaders called for a "million man march" to protest against what they say is a coup by President Mohamed Morsi.
    "The opposition are united in a way that we haven't seen for quite some time," report from Tahrir Square, noting that even some of his political allies were denouncing what was widely viewed as a drift into absolute rule.
    The protesters argue Morsi "has radically overstepped the legitimacy they gave him earlier in the year," Greste siad. There is outrage over the fact that far from encouraging democracy in Egypt, the expanded presidential powers go beyond  those held by toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
    Morsi on Thursday issued a declaration giving himself greater powers and effectively neutralising a judicial system that had emerged as a key opponent by declaring that the courts are barred from challenging his decisions.
    Morsi's decree raises very serious human rights concerns, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said on Friday.
    "We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in
    Egypt," Rupert Colville told a news briefing at the United Nations in Geneva. "We also fear this could lead to a very
    volatile situation over the next few days, starting today in fact."

    'Protecting the revolution'
    Morsi framed his decisions as necessary to protect the revolution that ousted Mubarak nearly two years ago and to cement the nation's transition to democratic rule.
    The president's decree, which dismissed Abdel Majid Mahmoud, Egypt's prosecutor general, prompted opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei to accuse Morsi of usurping authority and becoming a "new pharaoh", while other opposition figures on Friday called for nationwide protests
    "This is a coup against legitimacy... We are calling on all Egyptians to protest in all of Egypt's squares on Friday," said Sameh Ashour, head of the lawyers' syndicate, in a joint news conference with leading dissidents Amr Moussa and ElBaradei.
    "The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution," according to a decree read out on television by Yasser Ali, a presidential spokesperson.

    Retroactively dismissed
    Al Jazeera's Peter Greste, reporting from Cairo on Thursday, said the new declaration meant that Mahmoud was now retroactively dismissed as he had already been in office for six years.
    "What they've done is to make an administrative change. The prosecutor general, under the old law, was appointed for life. What the president has done is change the tenure to a four-year term," he said.
    "This is important because here's a man that a lot of people, including the president, held responsible for the failure of prosecution of the people who were charged with the attempted murder of protesters who were behind the revolution that overthrew [former President] Hosni Mubarak."
    Morsi's statement also indicated that there would be a retrial of all who were acquitted of the murder and attempted murder of protesters, because, according to Morsi's spokesman, they were acquitted based on flawed evidence.
    Our correspondent said the decision to replace Mahmoud "would be welcomed by a lot of people who believe that the prosecutor general, in particular, was protecting some of the cronies" of Mubarak.
    Mahmoud has been replaced by Talaat Ibrahim, who said in a brief statement after being sworn in on Thursday night that he would "work day and night to achieve the goals of the revolution".
    "At the same time, there are those who are very concerned that this means that the president is overreaching his authority,"
    "Remember that the parliament has been dissolved and that Morsi effectively made these decisions unilaterally. There can be no debate about this. This is now the law."

    Also a reporter from Cairo, said that rights groups in Egypt were concerned to see that Morsi "has given himself extraordinary powers".
    "Remember, he already had presidential powers, but also legislative powers ... and now he's given himself judicial powers. Also, another provision says that until there's a new parliament elected, his decisions will be final and can't be challenged by any authority," she said.
    Morsi had originally ordered Mahmoud to step down in an apparent bid to appease public anger over the acquittals of Mubarak-era officials accused of orchestrating violence against protesters last year.
    But Mahmoud and a powerful judges' club said the move infringed on the judiciary's independence, as Egyptian law protects the judicial officials such as the prosecutor-general from being fired by the president.

    To overcome the constraints on removing him, Morsi's decision asked Mahmoud to become ambassador to the Vatican. Mahmoud, however, refused to be re-appointed.
    'Absolute monarch'
    Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University, said that Morsi "is erecting himself as an absolute monarch".
    "He didn't consult with anybody from the opposition, so he has taken all these decisions alone, without any consultation. The problem is not about the content of the decisions itself, but about the way it was taken," he said.
    Nafaa said Morsi's decisions were raising many legal issues with their "total disregard of the judicial power".
    "This is a dangerous situation for the whole country. It is very confusing, because we don't know if we are in the presence of a constitutional declaration, or of a law, or of just administrative degrees," Nafaa said.

    "We have all of this together in the same statement."
    More than 800 people were killed during the revolution, and 11,000 wounded. Violence against protesters continued after Mubarak's toppling, with hundreds killed and thousands more arbitrarily detained.
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