EGYPT'S judges have drawn up new battle lines in the country's constitutional crisis, announcing that they would refuse to work with President Mohammed Morsi (pictured) until further notice.
The Supreme Constitutional Court put off a key ruling over whether to order the dissolution of the constitutional assembly after the building was surrounded by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
The deputy head of the court, Egypt's most senior female judge, said she had received death threats. In a statement later, the court said it was the "Egyptian judiciary's blackest day on record".
It said: "The judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court were left with no choice but to announce to the glorious people of Egypt that they cannot carry out their sacred mission in this charged atmosphere."
Following the postponement of the ruling, the liberal opposition to Mr Morsi announced that it would move its protests from Tahrir Square to the presidential palace tomorrow – mimicking the strategy that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.
But the Brotherhood has been able to muster much more substantial support for its actions than Mr Mubarak ever managed.
Hundreds of thousands of members and followers rallied outside Cairo University on Saturday afternoon, and it was hundreds of these who were ordered to march on to the Constitutional Court in the evening to continue their demonstration.
"I came here to tell the court to stop interfering with Mr Morsi's legitimate decisions," Ayman Sawi, a member from the oasis city of Fayyoum, said outside the court. "The court interfered before by dissolving the parliamentary assembly which was elected by 30 million people."
Mr Morsi's declaration 10 days ago, putting the assembly's actions and his own decisions above legal scrutiny, has divided Egypt more sharply than ever.
Liberals and Leftists, secular activists and Christians say that Mr Morsi has turned himself into a dictator, like Mr Mubarak.
Mr Morsi's declaration was intended to pre-empt the ruling by the Constitutional Court yesterday, which he believed would go against the assembly.
Its statement put the judges clearly on the side of the liberal and secular parties in opposition to Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood.
Mr Morsi has refused to back down, and, following the assembly's rushing through of a new constitution with an Islamist bent on Friday, announced a referendum on December 15.
His absolute powers will lapse if the constitution is agreed in the referendum, placing the opposition in a bind since a "no" vote is effectively a vote for those powers to be continued. (© Daily Telegraph, London)