CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's prosecutor general submitted his resignation Monday less than a month after he was swiftly sworn in by the Islamist president, who is embroiled in a power struggle with the judiciary.
If Talaat Abdullah's resignation is accepted, it will be a blow to President Mohammed Morsi, who last month had given himself near absolute powers placing him above judicial oversight. Morsi issued decrees that banned judges from challenging him or the Islamist-dominated panel that wrote the country's contested draft constitution.
On Monday, hundreds of public prosecutors staged a sit-in outside Abdullah's office in Cairo. They were pushed back by police when they tried to storm the building.
They were demanding he resign, saying the president's appointment of Abdullah was improper. They said the Supreme Judicial Council should have been the one to nominate him, in order to ensure a separation of powers, since the prosecutor is also tasked with looking into complaints against the government.
Abdullah said in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency that he would be willing to step down on Sunday, a day after the second leg of voting in a nationwide referendum on the draft constitution.
His predecessor, Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud, was appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak and served in the post for more than a decade. Mahmoud faced widespread accusations that his office did a shoddy job collecting evidence against Mubarak and other ex-regime officials in trials.
While many in Egypt were not opposed to Mahmoud's removal, some disagreed with the way he was ousted and replaced by Abdullah.
Morsi first tried to fire Mahmoud in October but had to rescind his decision when he found that the powers of his office did not give him the authority him to do so. He appointed Abdullah with his newly declared powers in late November.
The decrees sparked mass demonstrations and deadly clashes.
In another blow to Morsi, the State Council of Judges said Monday it will not oversee the second part of the vote on the draft constitution. They join the powerful judges' union and most of Egypt's judges, who are refusing to monitor the vote to protest Morsi's actions against the judiciary.
Zaghloul el-Blashi, the head of Egypt's committee overseeing the referendum on the constitution, told the privately-owned CBC TV station that the State Council of Judges' boycott affects 1,500 judges out of 7,000 who oversaw the first leg of the vote last Saturday. The second leg is scheduled for this Saturday.
On Sunday, representatives of seven rights groups charged that there was insufficient supervision by judges in last Saturday's vote in 10 of Egypt's 27 provinces, and independent monitors were prevented from witnessing vote counts.
According to Egyptian law, voting must be overseen by judges, and their absence could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the vote.