Mursi Advisors Behind Egypt Judiciary Debacle
By: Rana Mamdouh
Published Tuesday, November 27, 2012
As Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi faces yet another showdown with the judiciary, this time over his recent decree placing himself beyond the power of the courts, sources tell Al-Akhbar that the real masterminds behind these disastrous decisions are Mursi’s advisors.
Cairo – Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s repeated miscalculations in relation to the judiciary has cast new light on his advisors, whom some blame for Mursi’s clumsy power-grabs.
Egypt was rocked by a new wave of protests and clashes after Mursi issued a declaration last week granting himself unprecedented powers, including immunity from court decisions for himself and the Islamist-dominated assembly drafting the new constitution. He also declared his right to take all “due measures” necessary to “protect” the revolution, effectively legalizing the state’s violent crackdown on dissent.
Mursi’s most recent offensive against the judiciary follows a previous failed attempt to force out Public Prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud in October 2012.
High-level judicial sources close to the presidency told Al-Akhbar that Mursi’s recent constitutional declaration was drafted by the president’s legal advisor Mohammed Fouad Gadallah, justice minister Ahmed Mekki, and Vice President Mahmoud Mekki, along with minister for the People’s Assembly and Shura Council Mohammed Mahsoub, and law professors Tharwat Badai and Atef al-Banna.
The sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained that Vice President Mekki started his career as a police officer before resigning and joining the judiciary.
Mekki was the one who proposed Justice Talat Abdullah for public prosecutor. They were together in university and graduated in the same year. Abdullah is also ahead of Mekki in terms of seniority in the Court of Cassation.
According to the sources, none of these powerful figures had the courage to defend Mursi’s announcement in public after it triggered an angry, countrywide backlash. Instead, they pushed Gadallah, who is young and lacks legal experience, to the forefront to take the blame for what the sources called a “catastrophic” decision.
Al-Akhbar spoke to Gadallah, who defended the move and said that the president will not reverse any item in the declaration, which is his prerogative as president of the republic.
Gadallah insisted that the president did not make the decision alone. Several meetings were held with various stakeholders, where they shared opinions and all of the participants agreed on every sentence and every word of the declaration. Gadallah was careful not to disclose the identity of those participants.
“After a revolution, there cannot be agreement on all matters, big and small,” Gadallah said. “We choose to achieve the most probable goals of the revolution.”
When asked for the justification of the immunity granted to the president, Gadallah equivocated, saying: “We cannot take items out of the constitutional declaration separately. You either accept it all or reject it all. Nobody disagrees on the need for retrials.”
“As for immunity to the president’s decisions, it is temporary and aims to avoid violent tremors in the country. The president has the right to come up with constitutional declarations as long as there is no constitution,” he added.
Gadallah’s opinion was refuted by a legal expert, who told Al-Akhbar that according to international jurisprudence, constitutional declarations are allowed in only three cases: de facto power, which usually follows military coups; under occupation; and international mandates.
The expert said the president’s advisors have underestimated the judiciary and think they are up against “idiots.”
“Mursi does not have the right to constitutional declarations, since the election of a president meant that the country has shifted from revolutionary legitimacy to constitutional legitimacy,” the expert said.
The president, on the other hand, met with the Higher Judicial Council on Monday in an attempt to close the rift caused by the declaration. The meeting was widely seen as an attempt to find a way out while allowing Mursi to save face – this would be the fourth reversal of a presidential decision in relation to the judiciary.
The council and the president also discussed reversing the immunity given to the president, but keeping it for decisions related to sovereignty.
The latter, according to the vice president of the State Council, Justice Mahmoud Zaki, “does not need a text because, according to current law and constitutional customs and principles, sovereign decisions do not fall under the control of the judiciary in general.”
“Sovereign decisions are related to international treaties or going to war,” he explained. “All other decisions are supervised by the courts and cannot be given immunity.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.