Egypt's two highest appeals courts suspended their work yesterday in protest over the presidential decrees that have given the country's Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi nearly absolute powers, state television reported.
Judges of the Cassation Court decided in an emergency meeting that they will not return to work until Mr Morsi rescinds his decrees.
The country's lower appeals court also decided to stop work nationwide. The move followed a defiant statement by the Supreme Constitutional Court rejecting charges made by Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood that it is working to bring down his government.
The developments are likely to stoke the political turmoil triggered by Mr Morsi when he issued a constitutional declaration last week that placed him above oversight of any kind, including by the courts, and extended similar protection to parliament's lower chamber and a 100-member panel drafting a new constitution, which officials said is due to be finalised today. The constitutional court, which was not included in the suspension, is due to rule on Sunday on the legality of the two bodies, which are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. A ruling, regardless of which way it goes, would constitute a direct challenge to Mr Morsi, who took office in June as Egypt's first freely elected president but has enraged pro-democracy activists who claim he is acting too much like the authoritarian leader he replaced.
The court ruled in June to dissolve parliament's lower chamber, also dominated by Islamists, a decision that Mr Morsi and his Islamist allies described as part of a "conspiracy" to bring down the regime.