CAIRO Egypt's president removed the general prosecutor from his post on Thursday in an apparent attempt to appease demonstrators who accused him of offering weak evidence in a trial of Mubarak-era officials accused of planning attacks on protesters last year.
General Prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, appointed in July 2006, was among officials who drew the wrath of protesters after the fall of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011.
President Mohamed Mursi's decision came after a Cairo court on Wednesday acquitted 24 of Mubarak's loyalist officials accused of sending men on horseback and camels to attack protesters during last year's uprising.
MENA state news agency later said Maguid had "said he did not resign from his post as General Prosecutor and that he will still carry out the duties according to the law of judicial authority".
Egyptian law protects the general prosecutor from being dismissed. To surmount this hurdle, Mursi appointed Maguid ambassador to the Vatican, effectively removing him from his post.
"President Mohamed Mursi issued a decree appointing Abdel Maguid Mahmoud as ambassador to the Vatican," Ahmed Abdel Atti, Mursi's aide, said in a statement on Thursday.
Another presidential aide told Reuters that an "assistant to the general prosecutor will take up his responsibilities until a new one is appointed".
A judges' club supporting Mahmoud held an emergency meeting late on Thursday during which they denounced Mursi's decision to remove Mahmoud from his post, saying that Egyptian law on judicial authority gives immunity to judges.
The judges demanded that Mursi withdraw his decision to remove Mahmoud.
"Egypt's law on judicial authority offers judges immunity and prevents exiling them from their posts in order to protect their independence from the executive authority," Waleed Shafie, deputy director of the appeals court in Alexandria, told the Internet portal Ahram.
Many Egyptians believe Mahmoud was anything but an independent figure and see him as having done the bidding of Mubarak, who appointed him.
(Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Michael Roddy and Eric Walsh)