Egypt's Morsi faces lawsuit

An Egyptian court is to hear the first legal challenge to a decree issued by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt President Mohammed Morsi. Picture: AFP.

CAIRO - An Egyptian court is to hear the first legal challenge to a decree issued by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi that removed curbs on his powers imposed by the army.

The challenge was filed in Egypt's administrative court by Mohamed Salem, a lawyer who has already tried to have Morsi's children, two of whom hold Egyptian and U.S. passports, stripped of their Egyptian nationality.

"He (Morsi) wants to bring back the totalitarian regime and create a new dictator, but from the Brotherhood," Salem told Reuters on Tuesday. "He was sworn in based on the constitutional declaration."

The military leadership that took control of Egypt after the overthrow of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak issued its constitutional declaration in June, before Morsi won the first presidential election since Mubarak's departure.

The declaration reined in the presidency's powers, including giving the army legislative power in the absence of parliament. The generals dissolved parliament on the basis of a court order.

Morsi's counter-decree, issued on Sunday, handed him as president the lawmaking powers taken by the army and, in principle, control over army affairs. He also stripped the military leadership of its right to choose a new body to rewrite the constitution if the existing constituent assembly fails in its task.

The courts have proved a crucial battleground in Egypt's transition to democracy and on several occasions have determined the path of political feuds between elected Islamists and the military, which ruled Egypt for 60 years

Morsi was the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate for the presidential election.

More legal challenges to Morsi's latest decree could emerge. A member of the Supreme Constitutional Court has already questioned the legality of his decision. That court overruled an earlier bid by Morsi to reinstate the Islamist-led parliament.

Morsi announced his decision to scrap the constitutional declaration on Sunday and at the same time sent the most senior generals into retirement, replacing them with younger officers.

Islamists and even some of Morsi's liberal rivals praised the decision as a step towards pushing back the military and establishing civilian rule. But some critics accused him of trying to monopolise power.

A date for the court's first session has yet to be announced.