Egypt: Morsi trial delayed after chaotic start
CAIRO -- Deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and his co-defendants shouted their defiance at the judge presiding over their trial on charges of incitement to murder, Egyptian television and witnesses said, prompting the judge to adjourn the proceedings until Jan. 8.
Morsi, who also refused to wear prison-issued garb, repeatedly told the judge he considers himself Egypt’s legitimate president and does not accept the court’s authority, according to accounts in official media outlets.
The court session was not televised, and access was strictly controlled. Even some lawyers were barred from entering. Those allowed inside, including some journalists, were not allowed to bring mobile phones, but accounts filtered out via activists and social media in addition to the official reports.
Outside the heavily fortified police academy complex containing the courtroom, throngs of protesters waved banners with the yellow, four-fingered emblem of opposition to Egyptian authorities’ crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. “Down with military rule!” they shouted in voices hoarse with passion.
The capital was on high alert Monday, with a heavy deployment of security forces in streets and squares. Rolls of barbed wire and rows of police guarded the court venue on Cairo’s eastern outskirts, which was also the site of the trial of Hosni Mubarak, the longtime autocrat who was forced out in a massive popular uprising in 2011.
Morsi, along with 14 other senior figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, faces charges stemming from deadly clashes outside the presidential palace last December, midway through his year in office. His lawyers say that violence broke out because police refused to protect the palace.
Morsi’s supporters demand his reinstatement, something the military-backed government says will never happen, regardless of the trial’s outcome.
In the four months since Morsi was removed from office by the army, Egyptian authorities have taken harsh measures against the Muslim Brotherhood. The group has been formally banned, and thousands of its supporters are in jail. About 1,000 of them were killed in mid-August when police and soldiers broke up protest camps set up by supporters of the ex-leader.
Until his arrival at the court -- he was flown in by military helicopter -- Morsi had been held since the July 3 coup against him at an undisclosed location, with almost no contact with the outside world.
Over the weekend, an Egyptian newspaper posted what it said were video images of him in detention, but the video could not be independently verified or dated. It showed him appearing healthy and talking in an animated manner.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in a visit to Egypt on Sunday, called on Egyptian authorities to follow fair judicial practices. Human rights groups have said Muslim Brotherhood detainees, including Morsi, have been systematically denied due process, but Egyptian officials insist that he will have a fair trial.
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