Egyptian panel to rewrite parts of Islamist charter

2013-07-21T00:00:00Z Egyptian panel to rewrite parts of Islamist charterThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CAIRO - Egypt's interim president selected a team of legal experts Saturday to rewrite controversial portions of the Islamist-drafted constitution, as the military-backed leadership moved quickly to try to capitalize on the coup that ousted the country's first freely elected leader.

While supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi still protest in the streets, Egypt's new prime minister called for consensus and participation of all political groups. But Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group officially has refused to negotiate with the new government, saying they are open for talks only after he is reinstated.

The persistent protest and clashes, however, continue to rock hope for stability in the country.

Moves to amend the constitution are the latest push by the country's new leadership to move ahead with a military-backed timetable for a return to democratic rule to Egypt. The drafting of Egypt's constitution was one of the most divisive issues that came to characterize Morsi's first and only year in office.

In his decree Saturday, interim President Adly Mansour appointed the 10-member committee of judges and law professors that will propose amendments to the constitution. They have 30 days to suggest amendments. A second committee, consisting of 50 public figures including politicians, unionists and religious figures, then will have 60 days to review those amendments.

After that, citizens will vote on the proposed amendments in a referendum, according to the military-backed timetable. Parliamentary elections are to follow.

In an interview with Egyptian state television aired Saturday night, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said it is vital that Islamists take part in the political process, though none of Morsi's supporters are in the new Cabinet he leads.

"We cannot write a constitution when the country is divided. The country needs consensus," he said. "It is important we return to a country of laws."

The Brotherhood say the only legitimate constitution is the one approved in a nationwide vote and ratified by Morsi in December. The military suspended the constitution after the July 3 coup.

El-Beblawi also denied that the country's army chief, Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi, was pulling the strings from behind the scenes, saying he only spoke to the interim president regarding the formation of Cabinet.

Protests over the constitution and the direction of the country turned deadly after Morsi issued temporary decrees in late November that put himself and the drafting committee above judicial oversight. The charter was then finalized in a rushed overnight session and passed in a referendum.

Unlike the previous drafting committee under Morsi, at least 20 percent of the second committee is to be represented by young Egyptians who helped galvanize street movements and women.

Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, a leading figure in the Tamarod petition drive that mobilized the massive street protests that led to Morsi's ouster, said his group has launched a new initiative to collect suggestions from Egyptians on the constitution.

"We want to reach a constitution that is representative of the people's will," Abdel-Aziz told The Associated Press. He declined to comment on which articles the group wants amended.

Clashes between protesters and security forces have erupted into violence several times since Morsi's ouster, killing more than 60 people. The most recent incident occurred Friday night in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura when unidentified assailants opened fire at a Brotherhood-led march, sparking a melee that killed three female protesters, authorities said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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