Egypt's Judges Club summoned members to an emergency meeting today to hit back at President Mohamed Morsi's attempt to oust the prosecutor-general.
And hundreds of protesters flocked to Tahrir Square to protest at a court's acquittal on Wednesday of 24 Mubarak-era loyalists accused of masterminding a lethal attack on democracy demonstrators last year.
Mr Morsi sought to address widespread anger at the ruling by appointing Abdel Maguid Mahmoud ambassador to the Vatican - a ruse to remove him from the prosecutor's office since the president is not allowed to fire the legal chief.
Mr Mahmoud has refused to be budged - and Judges Club supremo Ahmed al-Zind said today that the judiciary would back "the sovereignty of the law and the principle of the separation of powers."
He called judges to meet to "confront the current crisis that aims at harming the judiciary.
"This is a farce - we will not bow," he said. "The era of tyrants is over."
But the crowds in Tahrir Square backed the president in denouncing the acquittal and calling for justice for the hundreds killed during the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.
"Either we get them justice, or we die like them," they chanted.
The Freedom and Justice Party - the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood - said the responsibility for achieving justice "falls primarily on the state prosecutor" and he should either present new evidence for a retrial or resign.
The party has previously demanded Mr Mahmoud's resignation as he was a senior Mubarak-era official accused of preparing political cases against dissidents under the dictatorship.
Rights lawyer Ahmed Ragheb said moving Mr Mahmoud would not be enough.
"The judiciary is packed with judges who acted as Mubarak's soldiers. Drastic reforms are needed," he said.
But secular and socialist organisations have expressed caution against presidential interference with the judiciary, warning it could lead to Islamist domination of new state institutions and a clampdown on the rights of women and religious minorities.
Their rally today ended in clashes with the president's supporters.
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