by Samer al-Atrush
by Samer al-Atrush
CAIRO, Nov 30, 2012 (AFP)
Thousands of protesters rallied in Cairo on Friday as the opposition piled pressure on President Mohamed Morsi after a panel rushed through a draft constitution seen as undermining basic freedoms.
Marches led by opposition figures set off from several Cairo districts to join the protesters in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
The Islamist-dominated assembly, tasked with drafting a new charter to replace the one suspended after Mubarak’s ouster, approved the draft early Friday morning after an almost 24 hour-long session boycotted by liberals and Christians.
The panel’s head, Hossam el-Ghiriani, said a delegation from the Constituent Assembly would visit Morsi on Saturday to present him the draft constitution. Morsi is expected to call for a referendum within two weeks.
Rights activists say the charter undermines freedoms of women and religious minorities while the opposition says it was rushed through to force an early referendum.
The constitution has taken center stage in the country’s worst political crisis since Morsi’s election in June, squaring largely Islamist forces against liberal opposition groups.
The crisis was sparked when Morsi issued a decree on November 22 giving himself sweeping powers and placing his decisions beyond judicial review.
His decree also prevented the constitutional court from ruling on the constituent assembly’s legality, as it was meant to do on Sunday. A court had disbanded an earlier constituent assembly.
A coalition of leading dissidents formed in protest at the decree has warned that an ongoing judicial strike could escalate into mass civil disobedience.
The strike, called by the top Cassation Court and several other courts in protest at the decree, could place the referendum itself in jeopardy, if judges who normally supervise elections refuse to grant the vote legitimacy.