Egypt's ex-president Mohamed Morsi back in court on jailbreak charges

Egypt's ex-president Mohamed Morsi back in court on jailbreak charges
Egyptian riot police stand guard outside a police academy complex in Cairo where a new hearing in the trials of deposed president Mohamed Morsi opened. (Mahmoud Khaled / AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO -- Deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was put on trial Tuesday on charges of orchestrating a prison break in 2011, state media reported.

Morsi, who was ousted nearly seven months ago by the army, is facing four separate court proceedings. Although he has been jailed since early July, Tuesday was just his second court appearance.

Two earlier sessions of his separate trials were brief and disorderly. In the first, in November, Morsi and his co-defendants on trial on charges of inciting murder shouted angry slogans at the judge, and the session was adjourned after only a few moments.

His second scheduled appearance, in an espionage case, was to have taken place earlier this month, but authorities decided not to bring Morsi to the court venue, citing bad weather that allegedly made the helicopter flight from his high-security prison impossible. That session also was cut short.

On Tuesday, court officials had new measures in place to prevent Morsi and those on trial alongside him from shouting down the judge. Authorities installed a soundproof glass cage, so the ex-leader could hear the proceedings but not speak audibly unless he was given permission to do so.

Nearly all senior leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood are in jail, together with thousands of rank-and-file followers. The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organization, and police routinely use lethal force when breaking up street demonstrations by its backers.

Morsi won Egypt’s first free presidential election in 2012, following the revolution three years ago that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. He spent a year in office before a massive public uprising against him, after which the army stepped in to remove him from office.

At previous sessions of the trials, small bands of pro-Morsi protesters defied a heavy police presence to gather as close to the well-fortified venue as they could get. On Tuesday, the only demonstrators in sight outside the police academy complex containing the courtroom were supporters of army chief Abdel Fattah Sisi, who led the coup against Morsi.

Sisi, now a field marshal, has been given the army's blessing to run for president, and is expected to formally announce his candidacy soon.

Twitter: @laurakingLAT

Special correspondent Amro Hassan contributed to this report.