CAIRO — Egypt's prosecutor general on Thursday defied the president's order to step down, to defuse public anger over acquittals in a case of brutality against protesters during last year's uprising that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Critics charged President Mohammed Morsi with exceeding his mandate.
Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud was quoted by Egypt's official news agency as saying he will remain in his post. His brief statement came just hours after Morsi ordered him to leave his position as prosecutor general and become the ambassador to the Vatican, ahead of a mass demonstration planned for today.
Egyptian law protects the prosecutor general from being ousted by the president. A judges' club called for an emergency meeting to protest Morsi's decree, which they see as a blow to the judiciary.
Though Morsi's decision had considerable public support, it appeared similar to his move to restore the Islamist-dominated parliament to session despite a decree by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which dissolved it over election law violations. The parliament then met in a single, short session.
Morsi has been sending mixed messages to the public. He has been shaking up the country's state institutions, removing much-hated figures from Mubarak's regime. But by replacing them with Islamists or sympathizers, he has sparked concerns from many liberal and secular parties.
Morsi's goal appeared to be to appease public anger over the acquittal Wednesday of 24 Mubarak loyalists for their role in last year's attack on demonstrators, known as the "Camel Battle."