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Egyptian court skips decision on constitution

| Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, 7:52 p.m.

CAIRO — Egypt's highest court on Sunday indefinitely postponed a highly anticipated ruling on whether the assembly that drafted a new constitution was legal, leaving the nation's upcoming referendum on the constitution in a state of uncertainty and putting off for now a direct confrontation with President Mohamed Morsy over his claim of judicial immunity.

The judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court said they could not convene because pro-Morsy demonstrators gathered in front of the court's building had threatened them and blocked their entry. The public, however, was able to enter the building.

The court did not explain why it could not have ruled on the case somewhere else. In a statement, the judges said they had to suspend their session because to go on would subject them to “psychological or physical pressure.”

The court's session had been widely anticipated as a showdown between Morsy and the country's judges over Morsy's declaration this month that the judiciary had no power to rule on his decrees. Since then, the judiciary and Morsy have engaged in a game of chicken over who decides legal matters that has divided the government and the nation.

On Sunday, Ahmed El Zind, president of Egypt's Judge's Club, which represents a large group of judges nationwide, announced that its members would not conduct the referendum, now scheduled for Dec. 15.

The court was supposed to rule on whether the Brotherhood-dominated constitutional assembly, which drafted the proposed constitution, was legal.

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