Background on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
UPDATE 1045 GMT: Journalist Lina El Wardani reports that Judge Tahani el-Gebali has denied the account attributed to her in The New York Times: "I called Gibali to verify, I read it to her on the phone, she denied quotes and said will sue NY Times."
David Kirkpatrick reports for The New York Times:
Even as they promised to hand authority to elected leaders, Egypt’s ruling generals were planning with one of the nation’s top judges to preserve their political power and block the rise of the Islamists, the judge said.
Tahani el-Gebali, deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, said she advised the generals not to cede authority to civilians until a Constitution was written. The Supreme Court then issued a decision that allowed the military to dissolve the first fairly elected Parliament in Egypt’s history and assure that the generals could oversee drafting of a Constitution.
The behind-the-scenes discussions, never publicly disclosed, shed new light on what some have called a judicial coup. From the moment the military seized control from President Hosni Mubarak, the generals “certainly” never intended to relinquish authority before supervising a new Constitution, Judge Gebali said....
Judge Gebali said her own direct contacts with the generals began in May last year, after a demonstration by mostly liberal and secular activists demanding a Constitution or at least a bill of rights before elections. “This changed the vision of the military council,” she said. “It had thought that the only popular power in the street was the Muslim Brotherhood.”
It was also around that time, Judge Gebali said, that she began helping the military-led government draft a set of binding constitutional ground rules. The rules protected civil liberties, she said, but also explicitly granted the military autonomy from any oversight, as well as a permanent power to intervene in politics. “The military council accepted it, and agreed to issue a ‘constitutional declaration’ with it,” she said.
But as the military-led government unveiled the rules, known here as the Selmi document, the provisions about the military’s power aroused fierce opposition, culminating in a weeklong street battle with security forces near Tahrir Square that left about 45 people dead.
The planned decree “was thwarted every time by all the noise, the popular mobilization, the ‘million-man marches,’ ” Judge Gebali said, blaming the Islamists even though they were only one part of the protests.
Egyptian jurists now say that the generals effectively planted a booby trap in the parliamentary elections by leaving them vulnerable to judicial negation at any time — if the generals allowed previous precedents to apply.