Egypt's top judicial body has called for the resignation of the chief prosecutor appointed by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, in the latest sign of turmoil in the Arab world's most populous nation.
The Supreme Judicial Council issued a statement Sunday saying Chief Prosecutor Talaat Abdullah should ask to return to his previous job as a judge for the sake of the unity of the judiciary. Abdullah's resignation is a key demand of Egypt's mostly liberal opposition, which accuses him of unfairly pursuing charges against critics of Morsi and the president’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Abdullah's office issued an arrest warrant for the host of a popular political satire program last month, charging him with insulting the president and Islam. After turning himself in, comedian Bassem Youssef was released on bail. The charges drew criticism from the United States, which accused the Egyptian government, a key military ally, of stifling freedom of speech.
Many judges and prosecutors demonstrated against Abdullah when he was named as chief prosecutor in December. The protests prompted him to tender his resignation but he later withdrew the offer and stayed in office.
An Egyptian appeals court tried to oust Abdullah last month, annulling the presidential decree that appointed him to the post. He also has ignored that ruling.
Egypt's religious ties between majority Muslims and minority Christians also were under strain on Sunday. Hundreds of Christians gathered at Cairo's main Coptic cathedral for the funerals of four fellow Christians killed in weekend clashes with Muslims in the town of Khosoos near the capital. That fighting also killed a Muslim.
After the funerals, many of the mourners tried to stage an anti-government march, chanting slogans demanding that President Morsi leave office. A scene of chaos ensued as a mob pelted the marchers with stones and police fired tear gas to try to disperse the rioters. Authorities said one person was killed.
The Egyptian economy also suffered a blow on Sunday, with train drivers and conductors going on strike in a salary dispute and paralyzing the nation's rail network. The government has offered to raise the rail workers' bonus payments by 10 percent, but the strikers have rejected that as too little.
Egypt has been hit by frequent social and political unrest since a 2011 popular uprising that ousted longtime autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.