Egypt braces as Morsi set to appear in court

2013-11-01 07:38
Mohammed Morsi (AFP

Mohammed Morsi (AFP

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Cairo - Egypt is bracing for deposed president Mohammed Morsi to go on trial on Monday, when he is expected to make his first public appearance since the military ousted him in July.

Morsi's supporters, hammered by a bloody and far-reaching police campaign since the Islamist president's overthrow and arrest, are determined not to allow the day to pass quietly.

"This is not just a trial of an elected president, it's a trial of the people's will," said Imam Yousef, a protest leader in the pro-Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance.

The coalition, led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, has called for peaceful protests as the trial convenes at a police academy adjacent to Cairo's Tora prison, where much of the Brotherhood's leadership is jailed.

Police say they are ready to deal with any outbreak of violence.

"There is a security plan to secure the court and [Morsi's] transport to the court room," a police general told AFP.

The security official said 20 000 policemen will be deployed on full alert in Cairo.

With more than 1 000 killed since Morsi's overthrow, and thousands of Islamists arrested, hopes for a political settlement between the Islamists and the army-installed government already are slim.

Morsi is charged alongside 14 others with inciting the murder of protesters outside his palace in December 2012.

He had been held at a Cairo military installation but was moved after his supporters clashed with soldiers outside the building on July 8 and more than 50 people were killed.

Morsi’s position

The military will bring him from the secret location to the court in a helicopter, a security official said.

Morsi, according to relatives and the few officials who were given access to him, remains defiant.

Unlike his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, also on trial facing similar charges, he will not co-operate with the court, said the Anti-Coup Alliance.

The deposed president "does not recognise the authority of the court", it said.

His lawyers will attend the hearing only as observers, it added.

Morsi's position appears unchanged since the night of his ouster, on which he released a defiant video challenging the military.

Later in July, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was allowed to speak with Morsi.

Officials briefed on the visit said Morsi had access to two state-owned newspapers and television, was in high spirits and utterly defiant.

"He remains stuck in June 30," said one official, referring to the day the military gave him a 48-hour ultimatum to yield to opposition demands to resign after millions took to the streets demanding he do so.

Ashton had personally asked interim president Adly Mansour and military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to free Morsi and other Islamist leaders.

An array of opposition groups

Western diplomats have now dropped such demands, government officials and Islamists who met with the diplomats said.

Egypt's judiciary, which mostly loathed Morsi and repeatedly clashed with him during his one-year presidency, bristles at any political intervention and will likely see the trial through.

The charges against Morsi could lead to the death penalty or life in prison.

They stem from a turning point in his presidency, when thousands camped outside his palace protesting against a decree that placed his decisions beyond judicial review.

Accusing police of failing to protect the president, the Muslim Brotherhood called on supporters to confront the protesters. At least seven were killed in the clashes

The violence galvanised an array of opposition groups that eventually played a role in the president's ouster.

Wael Haddara, a former Morsi aide, accused the military-appointed government of staging a sham trial.

"I think the world will see this clearly for what it is, it's a kangaroo court," Haddara, who is now in Canada, told AFP.

The appearance of the stocky, bespectacled former engineering professor in the defendants' cage will inspire his supporters, Haddara said.

"The very sight will rally a segment of Egyptian society."

His co-defendants include senior Brotherhood officials and presidential aides.

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