CAIRO - Egypt's highest court Sunday indefinitely postponed a highly anticipated ruling on whether the assembly that drafted a new constitution was legal, leaving the nation's upcoming referendum on the constitution in a state of uncertainty and putting off for now a direct confrontation with President Mohammed Morsi over his claim of judicial immunity.
The judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court said they could not convene because pro-Morsi demonstrators who had gathered in front of the court's building had threatened them and blocked their entry. The public, however, was able to enter the building. The court did not explain why it could not have ruled on the case somewhere else.
The court's session had been widely anticipated as a showdown between Morsi and the country's judges over Morsi's declaration this month that the judiciary had no power to rule on his decrees. Since then, the judiciary and Morsi have engaged in a game of chicken over who decides legal matters that has divided the government and the nation.
Opposed to Morsi's decree are judges, many of whom went on strike, and secular, liberal and Christian politicians and their supporters.
On the other side is the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group through which Morsi rose to prominence. On Saturday, the Brotherhood turned out hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in support of Morsi. The demonstrators outside the court building Sunday also were Brotherhood sympathizers.
The court was supposed to rule on whether the Brotherhood-dominated constitutional assembly, which drafted the proposed constitution, was legal. The court this year ordered the dissolution of the Parliament that had named the assembly. Had the court ruled that the assembly was illegal, it would have invalidated the proposed constitution, canceled the Dec. 15 referendum Morsi scheduled Saturday on the document, and forced Morsi to name a new assembly.