x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Egyptian courts adjourn cases against Mubarak and Islamists

'Trial of two regimes' is sign of intention to crush resistance

CAIRO // Three leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and the movement's former arch-foe, Hosni Mubarak, faced separate trials yesterday on similar charges of involvement in the killing of protesters.

With Egypt now under an army-installed government after last month's removal of the Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, local media seized on the symbolism of scheduling both sessions on the same day. "Trial of two regimes," headlined Al Shorouk daily newspaper.

In the end, Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's supreme guide, and his deputies did not appear at the opening of their trial for security reasons, a judicial source said.

Because of their absence, the judge adjourned the proceedings until October 29.

The case against Mr Badie, Khairat Al Shater and Rashad Bayoumy relates to violence before the army removed Mr Morsi on July 3.

The Islamist president has been detained in an undisclosed location since then.

More than 1,000 people, including about 100 soldiers and police, have died in violence across Egypt since Mr Morsi's removal, making it the bloodiest civil unrest in the republic's 60-year history. Brotherhood supporters have claimed the toll is much higher.

Mr Mubarak, who left prison on Thursday after judges ordered his release, appeared in a courtroom cage in a wheelchair, wearing sunglasses and dressed in white, along with his jailed sons, Gamal and Alaa, and the former interior minister, Habib Al Adly.

After a hearing that lasted about three hours, the judge set the next session for September 14, pending further investigation.

The former president was sentenced to life in prison last year for complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising against him, but an appeals court ordered a retrial.

A helicopter flew Mubarak to the court in the police academy on the eastern outskirts of Cairo from a military hospital, where he was placed under house arrest after his release from jail.

The government used a state of emergency it declared this month to place Mubarak under house arrest, apparently to forestall any public anger if he had simply walked free.

The trial of the Brotherhood leaders signalled that Egypt's new army-backed rulers intended to crush what they have portrayed as a violent, terrorist group bent on subverting the state.

The Brotherhood, which won five successive post-Mubarak votes, said it was a peaceful movement unjustly targeted by the generals who ousted Mr Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader.

The military contended it was responding to the people's will, citing vast demonstrations at the time against the rule of a man criticised for accumulating excessive power, pushing a partisan Islamist agenda and mismanaging the economy.

Charges against Mr Badie and his aides include incitement to violence in connection with an anti-Brotherhood protest near the group's Cairo headquarters on July 30, in which nine people were killed and 91 wounded.

The 70-year-old Brotherhood chief was detained last week. Mr Al Shater and Mr Bayoumy were picked up earlier.

Pro-Morsi crowds staged small-scale marches on Friday, but the Brotherhood's street power appeared to have faded because of the round-up of its leaders and the bloody dispersal of protest camps set up in Cairo to demand the president's reinstatement.

A pro-Morsi alliance known as the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy and Reject the Coup called yesterday for a campaign of civil disobedience to paralyse Egypt, "retake the revolution" and reverse the army takeover.

A day earlier, in a sign of confidence, the government relaxed a night-time curfew, saying it would start at 9pm instead of 7pm. The month-long curfew was imposed on August 14, the day the pro-Morsi protest vigils were stormed. Banks and financial institutions are working normally again.

Castigating foes of the army, a spokesman for the interim president, Adly Mansour, said Egypt had undergone difficulties in the past two months but had reached a "safe area".