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Mursi stands by decree assuming far-reaching powers

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Mursi stands by decree assuming far-reaching powers
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Cairo: Renewed nationwide protests erupted in Egypt Tuesday as the country's President Muhammed Mursi stuck to his controversial decree granting him sweeping powers with protesters alleging that the radical leader was fast turning into a dictator.

Clashes broke out between police and protesting youths near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square where activists have been holding fort for the past week.

The new demonstrations came a day after Mursi held a meeting with the nation's top judges to defuse the crisis over the controversial decree, but the meeting failed to break the impasse as thousands of people poured onto the streets in a massive show of defiance.

Protests also spread to outlying provinces including Alexandria, second-biggest city and central parts of the country.

After the meeting, Mursi dug in his heels making it clear to the judiciary that he did not infringe on its authority by assuming sweeping powers.

Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said that Mursi's recent decree would not be subject to modification, noting that the decree may have been "misunderstood" by the public.

The decree, issued by the presidency on Thursday night, was met with outrage by Egypt's opposition, who described it as an "attack on democracy" and a "threat to judicial independence."

The decree stated that presidential decisions will enjoy temporary immunity from legal challenge. The decree also protects Egypt's Islamist-led Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution, and the Shura Council (the upper house of parliament) from dissolution by court order.

"The decree will only immunise the President's sovereign decisions (from legal challenges)," asserted Ali, stressing the measure's temporary nature.

The statement was issued following the President's meeting with senior judicial figures.

The spokesman said Mursi told the judges that he acted within his right as the nation's sole source of legislation when he issued decrees putting himself above judicial oversight.

The members of the Supreme Judicial Council have said that the crisis between the judicial and executive branches is not over.

Mursi expressed his appreciation for the judiciary and his desire that it remain independent as it is "the last resort for the people to get their rights," Ali said.

Opposition parties and groups have called for mass rallies and "million-man" marches today to protest the decree.

A sit-in has been ongoing in Tahrir Square since Friday.

The Muslim Brotherhood had called on its supporters to protest today in support of the declaration, however, late last night the Brotherhood cancelled all protests planned by their supporters.

Morsi was sworn in as Egypt's first democratically elected president in June this year. He succeeded Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years. Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011 following the Arab Spring protests.

PTI

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