Cairo: Egypt`s highest judicial body on Sunday urged the top prosecutor to step down less than five months after the president appointed him, reflecting persistent turmoil in the government`s upper reaches that has often been accompanied by violence.
The surprise statement came on a day when Egypt`s railway services came to a halt because of a strike by train drivers and conductors, and the funeral of four Christians killed in sectarian clashes turned into a rally against President Mohammed Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
A statement by the Supreme Judiciary Council carried by the official MENA news agency urged the prosecutor, Talaat Abdullah, "to express a wish" to return to his previous job as a judge for the sake of the unity of the judiciary.
Abdullah`s appointment in December set off protests by many judges and fellow prosecutors, who called it illegal. It set off days of protests outside his office in downtown Cairo. The protests forced him to tender his resignation, but then he withdrew it and stayed in office.
A court ruling last week annulled the presidential decree appointing Abdullah, but he has continued to carry out his duties. There was no word immediately available from Abdullah on his plans.
Removing Abdullah has been a key demand of the mostly liberal and secular opposition. Today`s call by the council of the judiciary appeared aimed at offering him an honorable exit, a step toward ending a long running crisis within the judiciary over the appointment.
Over the past two weeks Abdullah has ordered summons against several media celebrities critical of Mursi, Egypt`s first freely elected president. They included popular TV satirist Bassem Youssef, who was accused of insulting Mursi and Islam.
The satirist was released on bail.
Youssef`s questioning last week, along with arrest warrants issued earlier by Abdullah`s office against five rights activists, brought criticism from the United States.
Train drivers and conductors went on strike Sunday to demand better pay in yet another episode in what appears to be an endless series of work stoppages over the past two years.
Transport Minister Hatem Abdel-Lateef approved a 10 percent hike in the bonuses routinely given to all railway workers but train drivers and conductors rejected it as too little and went on strike. They are members of a national union grouping all railway workers.
Trains stopped running from three key cities Cairo, the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and Tanta in the Nile Delta bringing to a halt most services around the nation.
Thousands of angry passengers crowded train stations. Video footage aired by several TV networks showed deserted platforms and motionless, empty trains.