Egypt’s deposed President Morsi goes on trial

Judge suspends proceedings after Morsi, facing charges of violence and murder incitement, rejects prison clothes.

Egypt’s deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, has gone on trial on charges of incitement of violence and murder after being brought from the secret location of his detention.

Morsi’s appearance on Monday at a police academy in an eastern Cairo district was his first public appearance since his military-orchestrated overthrow on July 3.

If convicted, Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected president – could face the death penalty.

He was flown on Monday from a secret military location to the venue of his trial by helicopter. His co-defendants were brought to the trial venue from their jail in a suburb south of Cairo in armoured police cars.

According to leaks from inside the courtroom, the session was temporarily suspended by the judge until Morsi obeyed the court’s rules on defendants’ clothes and the other defendants stopped chanting against the trial.

Charges against Morsi
  • Inciting killings
  • Conspiring with Hamas
  • Insulting judges

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Cairo, said: “We are hearing from a military spokesman that when Morsi was flown to the court, he was still wearing his suit.

“The other defendants who turned up were wearing the white boiler suits of prisoners. All prisoners in Egyptian trials are supposed to wear the white boiler suit before they are found guilty. And if they are found guilty, they then turn up in a blue boiler suit.

“However, Morsi said this was undignified, refusing to recognise that he was a defendant or that he had a case to answer. If there was anybody to speak on his behalf in court [defence lawywers], it would be him, he said.”

Morsi faces charges along with 14 other Brotherhood figures and allies – including Mohamed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian – in connection to clashes last December outside his presidential palace that left at least 10 dead.

Sources told Al Jazeera that Morsi insisted he was still Egypt’s president and that the trial was illegitimate.

“I don’t like it for the judges to be part in the coup,” Morsi is reported to have said.

“I am present in court only because of coercion.”

Tight security

In a last-minute change, authorities on Sunday switched the trial location, a move apparently aimed at thwarting mass rallies planned by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group to which Morsi belongs.

Security was tight around the trial’s venue earlier on Monday, with hundreds of black-clad riot police backed by armoured vehicles deployed around the complex. Several armoured vehicles belonging to the army were deployed too.

The final stretch of road leading to the police academy was sealed off, with only authorised personnel and accredited journalists allowed to approach the facility.

The academy is also being used for the re-trial of another former president – Hosni Mubarak – toppled in a 2011 uprising. He is accused of failing to stop the killing of protesters.

Morsi was expected to represent himself in the trial, Brotherhood lawyers had said.

During four months of detention, Morsi has been extensively questioned and has not been allowed to meet his lawyers. He has spoken at least twice by telephone to his family and received two foreign delegations.

Brotherhood supporters have called the detention an outright kidnapping.

“The other seven, who were members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, were excluded by the prosecutor from the case … this will also be brought up in the trial,” Mohamed al-Damati, a member of the defence team, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

Al-Damati said Morsi refrained from answering questions during the interrogations, considering them “invalid”.

He said the defence team, which has no access to Morsi, received documents of the court case only on Saturday night, although a request had been filed more than 20 days ago.

After Morsi’s removal, Egypt has witnessed one of its worst outburts of violence in decades.

On August 14, security forces violently cleared protest camps set up by Morsi supporters, leading to days of unrest that left more than 1,000 dead.

Since then, violent incidents have multiplied: a suicide car bomber tried to assassinate Mohammed Ibrahim, the interior minister, in September, and dozens of members of the security forces have been killed in a string of drive-by shootings, explosions and car bombs.

Mass rallies called

A Brotherhood-led group has called for mass rallies on Monday, while the interior minister has ordered the deployment of large numbers of security forces to guard the trial venue.

Meanwhile, a newspaper known for close ties to the military published on Sunday what appeared to be the first pictures of Morsi from his detention.

The daily El-Watan published a transcript of remarks it says were made by Morsi and captured on video, describing him as being “in total denial” and saying “I am the president of the republic, in accordance with the constitution”.

Later in the day, it posted a video showing Morsi wearing a blue track suit, sitting on a chair and speaking calmly.

The paper quoted him as saying: “I will represent myself in front of any court … I am not involved in killings of the protesters … I will tell judges that.”

A military official said the video was leaked to the paper in order to give his supporters a first glance of the former president to lessen the impact of the shock of his first public appearance.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies