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Morsi vows justice after bungled attempt to sack prosecutor

CAIRO -- Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi pledged on Friday to bring to justice Mubarak-era officials, a day after his bid to sack the top prosecutor infuriated a judiciary wary of its new Islamist leader.

Morsi reopened a rift with the judges on Thursday after trying to remove the state prosecutor following acquittals of ex-regime men accused of organizing an attack on protesters during last year's uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

“We will never ignore those who committed crimes against the nation and corrupted it,” he said in a speech at a mosque in the coastal city of Alexandria.

“They will be dealt with by the judiciary and legal system,” he said in the speech reported by the official news agency MENA.

An influential group of Egyptian judges backed state prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud's refusal to resign after Morsi ordered his removal, the official Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Morsi's bid to remove Mahmud by appointing him as ambassador to the Vatican tried to bypass checks on presidential control of the prosecutor, further enraging judges after Morsi had unsuccessfully tried to reverse a court order disbanding the Islamist-dominated parliament.

Ahmed al-Zind, head of the Judges' Club, said the judiciary was backing Mahmud in a bid to uphold “the sovereignty of the law and the principle of separation of powers,” Al-Ahram reported.

He said the judges would hold an emergency meeting “to confront the current crisis that aims at harming the judiciary.”

Zind's group had fiercely opposed the Islamist's election last June, which ended a military-led transition after a popular uprising overthrew Mubarak in February 2011.

Morsi's attempt to sack Mahmud came after his Muslim Brotherhood movement called for protests against the acquittals.

By early afternoon on Friday, hundreds of protesters had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square raising chants honoring those killed in the anti-Mubarak uprising: “Either we get them their rights, or we die like them.”

Brotherhood supporters briefly skirmished with demonstrators attending a rally in the square against the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly which is drafting Egypt's next constitution.

Television images showed a group of Brotherhood supporters tearing down a podium raised by their rivals.

The Supreme Administrative Court is set to rule on the assembly on Oct. 16, after several lawsuits challenged its legality and the mechanism for choosing its members.

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