CAIRO — Egypt’s ruling military council and highest court on Monday reaffirmed a decision to dissolve the country’s Parliament, defying newly elected President Mohammed Morsi and raising tensions between him and the military generals with whom he shares power.
In a statement, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court said that it didn’t base its decision on politics, calling its ruling “binding on all state authorities.”
The announcement came a day after Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, ordered Parliament to convene despite an earlier court ruling that dissolved the legislative body, which is dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s former party. At the time, the council of military generals, which had sole control over the nation until Morsi’s inauguration on June 30, backed the court’s finding that the Parliament had been elected illegally because the one-third of seats allotted to independents had been illegally contested by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties.
In its statement Monday, the high court said its mission was “to protect the provisions of the constitution and to prevent any aggression against or violation of them.”
Hours later, the military council released a statement through state television that called on all state institutions to respect the court declaration – an oblique criticism of Morsi.
Both the judiciary and the military council consist of appointees of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose resignation following a popular uprising last year paved the way for the country’s first democratic election, which concluded last month.
A Morsi spokesman said he believed that Parliament still could meet until new elections are held, perhaps adding to the tensions. Morsi’s call to convene the body “is not contradictory with the (court’s) decision and is in the best interest of the people,” spokesman Yasser Ali said.
Parliamentary speaker Saad el Katatni called for the People’s Assembly to hold a session on Tuesday to discuss the court ruling, according to the official Middle East News Agency.
Security officers allowed Parliament members to enter the building Monday after Morsi’s decree.
Earlier Monday, Morsi appeared in an armed forces graduation ceremony seated next to Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and other members of the military council. The event seemed calculated to dispel talk of tensions between Morsi and the military, but some observers said that the divisions are apparent.
“There is a conflict and a suppressed war between the (military council) and the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer, but “that doesn’t mean that they will grab each other’s necks.” The tensions will manifest themselves through “political decisions,” he added.
Morsi called for Parliament to reconvene shortly after meeting Sunday in Cairo with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Some Egyptians saw the United States’ hand in Morsi’s decision.
“We despise and condemn U.S. intervention in our affairs,” Ahmed el Zind, the president of the Association of Egyptian Judges, told a press conference Monday.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, called for protests Tuesday to support Morsi’s decision.
Also Monday, nine protesters were injured in Suez during clashes between military police and protesters following a military court sentencing of seven detainees who were arrested in May demonstrations against the generals.
The military police chased, dragged and arrested protesters and family members of the detained, said activist Rasha Azab, who was present. She called the proceedings in court “the first military trials since Morsi took over.”
Ismail is a McClatchy special correspondent.