Panel meets to amend Egyptian constitution

Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — The panel charged with amending Egypt's constitution in the aftermath of the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi met for the first time on Sunday, according to the country's official news agency.

Meanwhile, as the military-backed interim leadership pushes its fast-track timetable for a return to a democratic rule to Egypt, thousands of women held a brief protest against Morsi's overthrow at the heavily fortified Defense Ministry in Cairo. Ranks of soldiers formed a military cordon outside the ministry.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have held nearly daily protests since Morsi was deposed on July 3, and those 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, in the same part of Cairo as the Defense Ministry. The military says armed protesters attacked the club.

Another march set off toward the U.S. Embassy in another part of the city, but turned back at one of the security barriers that stretch around it for several blocks.

Waving Morsi's photo, small copies of the Quran and Egyptian flags, protesters chanted, "Morsi is coming back," and "Oh Sissi wake up, today is your last day!" in reference to Egypt's Defense Minister and army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Morsi after millions turned out to the streets on June 30 demanding he leave office.

"I am here to support the president's legitimacy and to send a message to the United States to tell them to stop interfering in Egyptian politics," said Zein el-Abedeen Hassib, 28. "They are the one who prepared" the coup, he said.

Sayyed Abdel-Radi, a 26-year-old student, said, "I am here to defend my vote. And because America is ruling us and giving orders to el-Sissi."

Members of all political factions in Egypt accuse the United States of meddling, usually on behalf of their rivals.

The military meanwhile is accusing Brotherhood leaders of instigating violence. The Islamist group says that the military, as well as supporters of ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, is using force to crush protests.

The women's protest comes two days after the death of three female Brotherhood supporters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura when unidentified assailants attacked an Islamist-led march.

The protests however appeared to have little impact on the military-guided transition.

The 10-member-panel of legal experts and senior judges is meeting Sunday at Cairo's parliament building to propose changes for many of the more controversial provisions in the constitution drawn up last year by an Islamist-dominated assembly and passed in a referendum.

President Adly Mansour, installed after Morsi's ouster, announced the panel's formation Saturday.

According to a military-backed timetable for a return to democratic rule to Egypt, the panel has 30 days to suggest amendments. A second 50-member committee will have 60 days to review those amendments before citizens vote in a referendum.

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