x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Egypt's top prosecutor urged to step down

A statement by the supreme judiciary council calls on the prosecutor, Talaat Abdullah, 'to express a wish' to return to his previous job as a judge for the sake of the unity of the judiciary.

CAIRO // Egypt's highest judicial body yesterday urged the top prosecutor to step down less than five months after the president appointed him.

A statement by the supreme judiciary council called on the prosecutor, Talaat Abdullah, "to express a wish" to return to his previous job as a judge for the sake of the unity of the judiciary.

The statement came on the same day Mr Abdullah ordered a new investigation into corruption allegations against Hosni Mubarak, a move that will keep the toppled former president detained during his upcoming retrial.

Mubarak, 84, heads to court on Saturday over his alleged complicity in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators during the protests that ultimately forced him out of office in February 2011. In January an Egyptian appeals court had overturned Mubarak's life sentence, citing shoddy procedures and ordering the retrial.

Mubarak, in detention since April 2011, is being held in a military hospital because of poor health.

The new investigation focuses on accusations that Mubarak and his family pocketed state funds designated for the presidential palaces. He faces additional questioning over a period of 15 days.

Mr Abdullah's appointment in December set off protests by many judges and fellow prosecutors, who called it illegal. It led to days of protests outside his office in downtown Cairo. The protests forced him to tender his resignation, but then he withdrew it and stayed in office.

A court ruling last week annulled the presidential decree appointing Mr Abdullah, but he has continued to carry out his duties. There was no word immediately available from Mr Abdullah on his plans.

Removing Mr Abdullah was a key demand of the mostly liberal and secular opposition. Yesterday's call by the council of the judiciary appeared aimed at offering him an honourable exit, a step towards ending a long-running crisis within the judiciary over the appointment.

Over the past two weeks Mr Abdullah has ordered summons against several media celebrities critical of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president. They included popular TV satirist Bassem Youssef, who was accused of insulting Mr Morsi and Islam. The satirist was released on bail.

Youssef's questioning last week, along with arrest warrants issued earlier by Mr Abdullah's office against five rights activists, brought criticism from the United States.