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Egypt's parties argue over courts; Muslim Brotherhood trying to dominate, opposition says

| Monday, April 22, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

CAIRO — Egypt's main opposition group and judges vowed on Monday to step up their fight against plans by the Islamist-dominated legislature to debate a bill critics say aims to impose Muslim Brotherhood control over the courts.

The judiciary has become the latest battleground between supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohamed Morsy. The bill, expected to reduce retirement age for judges, has sparked violence between opponents and supporters.

Morsy met with members of the top judicial body, the Supreme Judicial Council, in an attempt to contain the situation. Morsy said in a statement he “doesn't accept any encroaching on the judiciary or judges” and urged judges to stay clear of media debates.

As for the controversial bill, Morsy said he trusts every authority is carrying out its duty as it sees fit, and that he respects separation of authorities, signaling he won't interfere in the legislature's work.

The Judges Club, a union of 9,500 members, met and pledged to escalate its fight against what its chairman Ahmed el-Zind called “aggression against the judiciary.”

The bill, presented to parliament by the Islamist al-Wasat party, is expected to drop the retirement age to 60 from 70. That would force out nearly a quarter of Egypt's 13,000 judges and prosecution officials, according to experts, including some of the most senior judges.

Opponents see this as a way for Islamists force out judges in high courts, including the Supreme Constitutional Court. The two elements have been at odds since the Islamist-dominated parliament was dissolved last year by a court order.

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