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Egypt parliament convenes despite court order

The Egyptian parliament convened Tuesday in a brief session despite a court order dissolving the entire parliament. The session only lasted for five minutes [NPR report] but was still enough to deepen the tension between the newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi [BBC backgrounder] and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder]. Tuesday's session was initiated by Morsi when he issued [JURIST report] a decree [text] on Sunday calling the dissolved parliament back into session. He also called for a new parliamentary election once a new constitution is adopted, meaning that the election could take place sometime later this year. The nation's Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] dissolved [JURIST report] the entire parliament in June after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. The court is also expected to rule on three cases challenging the legality of the president's order later Tuesday, while a lower court has postponed its decision in cases against the presidential order to July 17. In response to the decree, the Constitutional Court had issued a public statement declaring its decision to be final [AP report]. Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni announced a plan seeking a second opinion from an appeals court on the decision of invalidating the parliament, but it is not clear whether such request will be accepted.

Even after a successful peaceful presidential election, the country is still facing continued political turmoil since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive]. A week after Morsi was sworn in [JURIST report] as the new elected president, he issued a decree appointing a fact-finding committee to investigate the deaths of nearly 1,000 protesters in last year's demonstrations [JURIST news archive]. Last month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged Morsi to end the pattern of human rights abuses [JURIST report] committed by Mubarak and the SCAF. A week earlier Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] expressed concern [JURIST report] about the SCAF's moves to expand its power, stating that the military's expansive power without oversight puts citizens at risk. Also in June, the SCAF stated [JURIST report] that the new president will have the power to appoint and dismiss the government. With the announcement, SCAF also issued an interim constitution [Egypt State Information Service report, in Arabic] that retains most of its power. However, the plan was criticized by observers who claim it gives far more power to the council than expected while the president is given only little authority over the state's affairs.

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