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Egypt’s top judges override decision to boycott charter

Cairo - 

Egypt’s most senior judges announced on Monday they would delegate judicial officers to oversee a referendum on a controversial draft constitution, overriding calls for a boycott, a presidential aide said.

The Supreme Judicial Council’s announcement that judges would monitor the December 15 vote across the country comes as a blow to President Mohammed Morsi’s opponents, including judges, who had hoped to delegitimise the referendum. Mohammed Gadallah, Morsi’s legal aide, said the decision meant that the referendum would take place under judicial supervision, despite calls for a boycott by the Judges Club, a powerful syndicate representing judges nationwide.

“The largest body responsible for judges is the Supreme Judicial Council,” Gadallah said. “They realised they had a responsibility before the nation to supervise. “This means, it’s over,” he said when asked whether it was still possible for the vote to be boycotted by judges. He added that individual judges could excuse themselves from monitoring the vote after submitting their reasons in writing.

Gadallah said the State Council - the body that gives legal advice to the government - had also agreed to delegate judges to oversee the referendum. Meanwhile, Egyptian newspapers on Monday protested against a disputed new constitution, some of them carrying dramatic front pages headlined ‘No to Dictatorship’.

A cartoon of a newspaper in human form chained in a cell was pasted on the front of several independent papers including Al Watan and Al Masry Al Youm with the line ‘A constitution that cancels rights and shackles freedoms. No to dictatorship’. The papers also declared that they would not go to print on Tuesday.

The move is the latest in a string of protests against Morsi who last week issued a decree expanding his powers and rushed through the adoption of a draft constitution at the heart of a political and ideological battle.

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