x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Morsi goes on trial for inciting violence

Mohammed Morsi rejects the court’s legitimacy on the first day of his trial for incitement to murder, and demands that those who removed him from office be prosecuted.

CAIRO // Mohammed Morsi rejected the court’s legitimacy yesterday on the first day of his trial for incitement to murder, and demanded that those who removed him from office be prosecuted.

Egypt’s Islamist former president was indignant and outraged in his first public appearance since the military toppled him in July. “I am Dr Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic,” he told the court.

The hearing in a makeshift courtroom at a police academy in east Cairo lasted nearly three hours. Defence lawyers demanded to see all the case files and to be allowed to meet their clients privately.

The trial was adjourned to January 8. Mr Morsi, who had been detained at an undisclosed secret location since July, was flown to Borg El Arab prison outside Alexandria.

He and 14 others are accused of inciting violence and the murder of protesters outside the presidential palace in December. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

The Islamist leader branded as criminal his overthrow by the army on July 3 after mass protests against his single year of turbulent rule.

“This was a military coup. The leaders of the coup should be tried. A coup is treason and a crime,” he said.

“I cannot accept for the judiciary to become a cover for the military coup. I am here involuntarily, and through force.”

Mr Morsi, wearing a dark blue suit, was driven to the heavily fortified police academy after being brought by helicopter that touched down near by.

State television showed him smiling as he stepped out of a white van, buttoning his blue blazer and entering the dock to applause from the other accused, who were dressed in white prison uniforms.

Essam El Erian and Mohammed El Beltagui, leading Muslim Brotherhood figures on trial with Mr Morsi, chanted “Down with military rule” as Mr Morsi, his greying beard closely trimmed, smiled and waved at his supporters

The judge, Ahmed Sabry Youssef, banned cameras and recording equipment from the courtroom.

Mr Morsi’s supporters accuse the government of fabricating the charges against him. They held anti-military rallies across Cairo, including outside the police academy where dozens brandished posters of Morsi and signs bearing anti-military messages.

Thousands also protested in front of the constitutional court.

Security forces completely closed Nahda Square and Cairo University, and military vehicles guarded police stations.

The authorities deployed 20,000 policemen for the trial, and warned they were ready to deal with any violence.

* Agence France-Presse