At least 30 Egyptians were wounded on Friday in clashes between liberal opposition activists and thousands of Islamists rallying outside the Supreme Court in central Cairo demanding “the cleansing of the judiciary,” Al Arabiya TV reported.
Opposition activists fear the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to purge many judges so Islamists can install new ones more supportive of their agenda. A government-penned draft bill has also been under preparation, and a Brotherhood official’s comments fueled fears that as many as a quarter of Egypt’s over 13,000 judges and prosecution officials may be sent into retirement.
As some Islamists moved toward Cairo’s Tahrir Square, they were met by anti-Mursi youth a few blocks from the square, some of them in masks. It was not clear who started the clashes, but it led to both sides pelting each other with stones. One bus was seen set on fire. The sound of birdshot cracked through the air in the clashes, and tear gas was fired - even though there were no police nearby.
Some of the masked youths and some Islamists were seen with homemade pistols. Others wielded iron bars and tree branches and broke up street pavements to throw the chunks of asphalt and concrete. At least 39 people were injured, according to the state news agency MENA.
Al Arabiya TV’s broadcasting equipment was vandalized during the clashes.
An hour after the clashes broke out, three armored police vehicles arrived and began firing tear gas, AFP reported.
The Islamists, who set fire to two buses, were demanding an overhaul of the judiciary, after a court challenged a decision by Islamist President Mohamed Mursi to sack the veteran state prosecutor.
“The people demand the cleaning up of the judiciary,” the protesters chanted.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood had called the demonstration outside the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly challenged Mursi since he took office last June.
Last month, a court overturned a controversial decree by Mursi to sack state prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud, appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak, and replace him with Talaat Abdallah.
The court believed Mursi had overstepped his powers when he sacked Mahmud, blamed for bungling the trials of former regime officials, including Mubarak himself, after the 2011 uprising.
Many judges are Mubarak-era appointees, and Mursi supporters claim they remain hostile to them despite subsequent election victories.
A court also overturned Mursi’s calling of parliamentary polls for this month, ruling that he had ratified a new electoral law without consulting the constitutional court.
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