Egypt’s top court suspends sittings

Egypt’s top court announced yesterday that it had suspended its work indefinitely to protest against “psychological pressures”.

The Supreme Constitutional Court’s announcement came hours after it postponed a ruling on the legitimacy of an Islamist-dominated panel that drafted a disputed new constitution for the country.

Several thousand supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi have gathered outside the Nile-side courthouse in Cairo to prevent the judges from entering.

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The court said in a statement it could not work in a “climate filled with hatred” and that its judges could not enter the courthouse because they feared for their safety.

The judges were also expected to rule on the legitimacy of another Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, or the Shura Council.

In the past, Islamists have assaulted secular politicians, lawyers and activists outside court complexes as judges inside deliberated rulings anticipated to be against their interests.

Islamists say that the courts are filled with judges loyal to Hosni Mubarak’s ousted regime. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled in June to dissolve the Islamist-dominated People’s Assembly, parliament’s lawmaking lower chamber, on the grounds that a third of its members were illegally elected.

Besides ruling on the legitimacy of the constituent assembly, the court was also expected to rule yesterday on parliament’s upper chamber, also dominated by Islamists.

A ruling from the court – regardless of which way it goes – would be a direct challenge to Mr Morsi, who last month gave himself near absolute powers, placing himself and the assembly above any oversight, including by the judiciary.

Mr Morsi’s decrees caused an uproar among the nation’s secular-led opposition. Tens of thousands of his supporters staged rallies across much of the country on Saturday. The gatherings were in part a response to large protests by the opposition on Tuesday and Friday.