New Tensions Over Top Egypt Prosecutor

The prosecutor Talaat Abdullah, who was appointed by President Mohammed Morsi, told reporters he resigned on Monday “under pressure” and amid “abnormal circumstances” with prosecutors holding a sit-in in front of his office.

The protesting prosecutors accused Abdullah of pressuring a judge not to release some 130 anti-Morsi protesters taken into custody earlier this month. Abdullah had been investigating the 5 December clashes between members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and anti-Morsi protesters – one of the tensest moments Egypt has seen in recent weeks. At least 10 died in clashes that day.

Morsi alleged that some of those detained during the clashes had confessed they were paid to attack his supporters, a charge Abdullah denied.

Abdullah’s appointment was part of Morsi’s highly controversial 22 November decrees, under which he gave himself immunity from judicial oversight. The decree was aimed at preventing the courts from disbanding the Islamist-dominated assembly drafting Egypt’s new constitution, which is now being voted on in the referendum.

Morsi eventually rescinded the decrees, but only after the constituent assembly rushed in a marathon session to finalize the draft constitution. They did do despite the withdrawals of liberal representatives and Christians from the panel protesting clauses and articles they claim will turn Egypt into an Islamist state.

The decisions plunged the country into turmoil, split political forces into two camps: Islamists and their opponents and sparked street protests of hundreds of thousands of opposition and members of judiciary.

Low turnout

The crisis intensified when Morsi put the draft constitution to a vote, despite protests. The opposition, united under umbrella group of National Salvation Front, called for a “no” vote.

The first round drew an unexpectedly low turnout of about 32% and was boycotted by most judges who traditionally monitor the voting. Rights groups said there were numerous violations. Unofficial results from the first of the two votes showed that 56 percent voted “yes” for the constitution. The second round of voting is set for Saturday.

In another development, an Egyptian court ordered the retrial of two policemen sentenced to seven years in prison in the killing of Khaled Said, the young man whose death helped ignite last year’s uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Cairo’s Appeals Court overturned the prison sentences and ordered the retrial of the policemen.

Said’s slaying was widely seen as Egypt’s version of the case in Tunisia of Mohammed Bouazizi – the fruit seller whose self-immolation triggered the uprising there and set off the Arab Spring in the region.

Said’s family and witnesses say the two policemen savagely beat him to death after an argument at an Alexandria Internet cafe in June 2010. As proof, they point to photos of his body showing his badly disfigured and bloodied face as well as witness accounts.- AP