3 Dec 2012

Egypt constitutional court halts work

11:34 pm on 3 December 2012

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court has said it is halting all work indefinitely in protest at the psychological pressure it has faced.

Islamist protesters earlier prevented the judges from meeting in Cairo to rule on a draft constitution, the BBC reports.

The supporters of President Mohammed Mursi wanted to block any ruling that would question the document's legality.

After the demonstrations the court issued a statement announcing the suspension of the court sessions until "the time when they can continue their message and rulings in cases without any psychological and material pressures".

The court said that Sunday was the blackest day in the history of Egyptian judiciary.

The developments are the latest in an unfolding confrontation between President Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters on one side, and his mainly secular political opponents and the judiciary on the other.

Mr Mursi adopted sweeping new powers in a decree on 22 November that stripped the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions.

Though it is unclear what effect any Supreme Constitutional Court ruling would have in the circumstances, analysts say any ruling opposing his decisions would be a direct challenge and would bolster the opposition campaign to have his decree annulled.

Mr Mursi has said a referendum on the draft constitution will be held on 15 December. His opponents say the draft constitution undermines basic freedoms.

The organisation representing Egypt's judiciary, the Judges Club, has announced its members will not supervise the referendum.