The Muslim Brotherhood suffered a setback when an Egyptian court suspended the assembly charged with writing the country's new constitution amid criticism that Islamists held too much sway.

The court's decision, which criticized how the assembly was selected, was the latest in a series of challenges to the Brotherhood, which controls nearly 50 percent of the seats in parliament, as it attempts to consolidate power and anchor the constitution to Islamic law. The judges in effect disbanded the 100-member constituent assembly, which was made up mostly of Islamists.

The verdict came after liberals, secularists, Christians and other groups boycotted the assembly over concerns that the Brotherhood would impose a religious agenda at the expense of civil rights and democratic freedoms. It was another indication that the Brotherhood was clumsily maneuvering in a new political terrain following last year's revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

The constitutional assembly, elected by lawmakers from the upper and lower houses of parliament, had been widely disputed for weeks, opposed by constitutional experts and the subject of numerous lawsuits. Its suspension means Egypt may not have a new constitution when the ruling military council, which had called for the panel's creation, hands power to an elected civilian government in June.