Egypt Begins Work on Amending Constitution

CAIRO (AP) -

The panel charged with amending Egypt’s constitution following the army’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi began its work Sunday as the military-backed interim leadership forged ahead with its transition plan aimed at bringing the country back to democratic rule.

While appealing for consensus and reconciliation, Egypt’s new government has pushed the transition in the face of opposition from Morsi’s supporters, who denounce the military coup that overthrew the Islamist leader and reject the new political order that has replaced him.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and his Islamist allies have vowed to stage daily rallies until he is reinstated, setting the stage for further instability and potential violence. The rallies outside military buildings are particularly sensitive. Some 54 people, mostly pro-Morsi demonstrators, were killed when soldiers opened fire two weeks ago outside the Republican Guard Club. The military says armed protesters attacked the facility, while the Brotherhood says the soldiers fired on peaceful protesters.

The killings are the bloodiest episode since the military overthrew Morsi, although there have been smaller bouts of violence that have turned deadly, including the killing of three women at a Brotherhood rally in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura on Friday. Egypt’s prosecutor general opened an investigation, and top figures in the new leadership have condemned the killings.

“What happened in Mansoura will happen again in the future,” said 35-year-old housewife Nagah Thabit, who was among the protesters out on the streets in support of Morsi on Sunday. “Anybody who will take to the streets in the future, the army will unleash their thugs against them.”

One of the marches Sunday set off toward the U.S. Embassy but turned back at one of the security barriers that stretch around it.

While the protests have snarled traffic in the capital, they have had little outward impact on the military-guided transition, including the decision to amend the constitution that was contentiously drafted and passed in a referendum during Morsi’s first and only year in office.

On Sunday, the new 10-member panel of legal experts and senior judges met for the first time to begin drawing up proposed amendments to the constitution. The panel has 30 days to do so. A second 50-member committee then will have 60 days to review those amendments before citizens vote on the new constitution.