Thousands are protesting in Egypt after President Mohamed Morsi issued a constitutional decree Thursday that rules none of the executive’s decisions can be overturned until a new constitution is drafted and that the Islamist-dominated assembly writing the constitution is exempt from dissolution.UPDATE [13:50 EST]: The U.S. State Department has issued a statement saying that Morsi’s declaration raises concerns for Egyptians and the international community. France condemned the order as well.
Morsi’s move—which came the day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Morsi brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas—angered secularists and liberals, including prominent pro-democracy figure and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.
“Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh,” ElBaradei tweeted. “A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.”
ElBaradei and other former presidential candidates called for protests Friday, even as more than 72 people have been injured in four days of violent street clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo that began on the one-year anniversary of street battles in which 42 people were killed.
Anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters have attacked local offices of the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party in various locations across the country, including the headquarters in Alexandria.
Street fights between pro and anti-Brotherhood protesters have erupted, and thousands from all over the country traveled to Cairo to march on the presidential palace and Tahir Square.
The order also replaced the prosecutor general and ordered the retrial of Hosni Mubarak and top aides on charges of killing protesters. Human rights activists supported those moves, but were concerned about the newfound powers of the president and the constitutional assembly.
“We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt,” Rupert Colville, the spokesman for U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, told NBC News. “We also fear this could lead to a very volatile situation over the next few days.”
The decree extended the deadline for the final draft of the constitution, originally due on Dec. 5, by two months.
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