Cairo - Senior judges defended Egypt's judiciary on Thursday from attacks over its handling of the trial of toppled ruler Hosni Mubarak, accusing critics of trying to interfere with the institution's powers and drag it into political battles.

Judge Ahmed el-Zend, head of the influential Judge's Club, called for legal investigations into members of parliament for “slandering” the judiciary and the judge in the Mubarak case.

“This is an intervention in the work of the judiciary,” Zend told a news conference. “This is a dark, fierce attack against the judiciary.”

A court on Saturday sentenced the former ruler and his interior minister to life imprisonment for their role in the killings of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's rule. Six senior police officers were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The verdicts were met by angry street protests by Egyptians who considered them too lenient and demanded a purge of the judiciary.

Members of the Islamist-dominated parliament attacked the verdicts, accusing the court of ignoring the rights of peaceful protesters killed in the uprising.

Zend said the judiciary would not be intimidated by such criticism.

“Judges will have a say in determining the future of this country and its fate. We will not leave it to you to do with it what you want,” he said.

Zaghloul al-Balshy, a senior judge and vice-chairperson of the Court of Cassation, told Reuters that if there were objections to the ruling against Mubarak, the appropriate legal avenue would be an appeal and not attacks on the courts at large.

“People accepted to revert to the judiciary, then they must respect the judiciary. To shove it into what does not involve it has shaken confidence in the institution,” he said.

One of the few institutions that survived the uprising intact and operated with some independence during Mubarak's rule, the judiciary has since handled a series of high-profile cases that have put it into public focus and in some cases led to unpopular acquittals. - Reuters