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Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's president, stands by his decrees

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Many members of the judiciary were appointed under Mubarak, drawing allegations, even by some of Morsi's critics, that they are trying to perpetuate the regime's corrupt practices. But opponents are angry that the decrees leave Morsi without any check on his power.

Morsi, who became Egypt's first freely elected president in June, was quoted by Ali as telling his prime minister and security chiefs earlier Monday that his decrees were designed to "end the transitional period as soon as possible."

The dispute is the latest crisis to roil the Arab world's most populous nation, which has faced mass protests, a rise in crime and economic woes since the initial euphoria following the popular uprising that ousted Mubarak after nearly 30 years of autocratic rule.

Morsi's decrees were motivated in part by a court ruling in June that dissolved parliament's more powerful lower chamber, the People's Assembly, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Islamists.

The verdict meant that legislative authority first fell in the hands of the then-ruling military, but Morsi grabbed it in August after he ordered the retirement of the army's two top generals.

Morsi's decrees saved the constitutional panel and the upper chamber from a fate similar to that of the People's Assembly because several courts looking into the legal basis of their creation were scheduled to issue verdicts to disband them.

Secular and Christian politicians have withdrawn from the 100-seat panel tasked with drafting the charter to protest what they call the hijacking of the process by Morsi's Islamist allies. They fear the Islamists will produce a draft that infringes on the rights of liberals, women and the minority Christians.

The dispute over the decrees has taken a toll on the nation's already ailing economy. Egypt's benchmark stock index dropped more than 9.5 percentage points on Sunday, the first day of trading since Morsi's announcement. It fell again Monday during early trading but recovered to close up 2.6 percentage points.

It has also played out in street protests across the country.

Thousands gathered in Damanhoor for the funeral procession of 15-year-old Islam Abdel-Maksoud, who was killed Sunday when a group of anti-Morsi protesters tried to storm the local offices of the political arm of the Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful political group.

The Health Ministry said 444 people have been wounded nationwide, including 49 who remain hospitalized, since the clashes erupted on Friday, according to a statement carried by the official news agency MENA.

Morsi's office said that he had ordered the country's top prosecutor to investigate the teenager's death, along with that of another young man shot in Cairo last week during demonstrations to mark the anniversary of deadly protests last year that called for an end to the then-ruling military.

Up to 10,000 people marched through Tahrir Square for the funeral procession of 16-year-old Gaber Salah, who died Sunday of head wounds suffered in clashes with police. Salah was a member of April 6, one of the key rights groups behind the anti-Mubarak uprising, and a founder of a Facebook group called "Against the Muslim Brotherhood."

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