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Egypt’s top court on strike to protest psychological pressure

Cairo: Egypt's top court today suspended its work indefinitely to protest "psychological and physical pressures" by Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi who prevented judges from entering the court house, worsening a conflict between the judiciary and the head of state.

The Constitutional court was expected to rule on the case of dissolving the constituent assembly and the Shura Council.

However, consideration of both cases has been postponed, with no new or follow-up sessions scheduled as of yet.

The Supreme Constitutional Court in a statement condemned the protests that blocked judges from entering the building, describing the events as a "dark day" for the judiciary.

"The session on reviewing lawsuits filed (in) the Supreme Constitutional Court took place on December 2, 2012, which (will be) a dark day in history of the Egyptian judiciary throughout the ages," the statement said.

It said when judges were close to the court in the morning, they found protesters surrounding the building, blocking its gates, climbing its fence and chanting anti-judge slogans inciting people against (the judges).

"The Supreme Constitutional Court's judges have no choice other than declaring their inability to perform their sacred duties in such an atmosphere full of hatred and the desire for revenge; hence the judges announce (the) suspending the court sessions until they are able to resume their message and review lawsuits filed to the court without being exposed to any psychological or physical pressure," the statement said.

The court's decision intensifies political crisis between Islamist President Mursi and the mostly secular opposition.

The crisis began when Mursi issued decrees on November 22 that gave him sweeping powers and extended immunity from the courts to a panel tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Mursi has also announced to hold a referendum on the controversial draft constitution on December 15, a move aimed to defuse opposition fury over his newly expanded powers.

The new constitution was drafted by a panel predominated by Islamists, after Liberals, secularists and Christians withdrew from it, saying the changes were being forced through.

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