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Egypt court delays hearing on members of constitutional assembly

An Egyptian court on Monday postponed the next stage in a hearing challenging the composition of Egypt's constitutional assembly, the council responsible for drafting the country's new constitution, until late September. The assembly faces its latest challenge from a group that opposes the body's Islamist majority. A hearing on the matter held earlier this month ended in open fighting [Reuters report] and a new lawsuit filed by Islamists alleging that the judge in the case is biased. The decision by the court to delay the proceedings will likely give the assembly time to draft a constitution, though its legality will be uncertain. The constitutional assembly has faced numerous challenges in recent months. Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court effectively suspended [JURIST report] the work of the 100-member council in April after ruling in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the formation of the panel. In June, the now-dissolved Egyptian parliament elected a new constitutional council after lawmakers finally reached an agreement [JURIST reports] on the political composition of the council. Days later, the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt dissolved the country's Parliament [JURIST report] after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally.

Egypt's has faced political turmoil since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak last year. Earlier this month, newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a statement [JURIST report] saying he will respect the ruling of an Egyptian court suspending his decree to reconvene the parliament. Morsi issued the decree [JURIST report] earlier that week despite the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that the parliament was elected illegally. Also this month, a former candidate in Egypt's presidential election and several non-government organizations filed a lawsuit challenging Egypt's interim constitution [JURIST report], alleging it gives the Egyptian military unlimited power. Last month, an Egyptian court struck down a government decree that restored broad arrest powers to Egyptian military officials. The Ministry of Justice issued the decree earlier that month, restoring some of the power previously granted to the military through the emergency law, which expired [JURIST reports] in May after being in effect for nearly 30 years. Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern [JURIST report] about the growing power of the Egyptian military rulers.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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