Morsi trial adjourned until 2014 after chaos in Cairo court
Deposed leader faces charges of inciting violence in 2011 protests
This image made from video shows ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, centre, arriving for a trial hearing in Cairo, yesterday. Emerging from four months in secret detention, the deposed Islamist president defiantly rejected the court’s authority to try him. Photograph: AP photo/Egyptian interior ministry
Facing an array of charges, Mr Morsi refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court, repeatedly shouting, “I am the president of the republic”. After a rowdy two hours the trial was adjourned until January 8th.
Since the military removed Mr Morsi from office on July 3rd, he has been held in an undisclosed location with little external communication. He and his co-defendants face charges of inciting the killing of protesters who massed outside the presidential palace in December last year and demanded he call off a referendum on a new constitution drafted by his Islamist allies.
If convicted, the defendants could face the death penalty.
An estimated 20,000 security personnel were stationed around key areas in Cairo in advance of the opening day of the trial. The court location, in the New Cairo Police Academy, 25km from central Cairo, was not disclosed until Sunday and any person getting in was required to go through five security checks.
No electronic devices were permitted and police set up barriers to the public far from the entry to the sprawling compound. The courtroom was built specifically for the trial of Hosni Mubarak, the former president who was deposed in 2011 and remains under house arrest in a military hospital.
Here it was being used to try Mr Mubarak’s democratically elected successor.
Resembling a lecture hall, the room had been fitted with large ad hoc prison cells and half of it was obscured by the mesh of wire and bars. At one end, six Muslim Brotherhood members, including leading members Mohamed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, waited in silence, dressed in white prison uniforms.
After journalists and lawyers filled the stands, the six suddenly began chanting in unison “Down with military rule!” and “We are not a police state!”
A female lawyer in the crowd shouted back “Execution! God willing.” Other lawyers sympathetic to the Brotherhood held up the four-finger salute that has become a sign of support for the now suppressed organisation.
Mr Morsi eventually made his way into the courtroom to applause from his Brotherhoo
d colleagues and amid chaotic scenes. Journalists and lawyers stood on their chairs, then tables, to get a better look at the man who had managed to create this visceral bifurcation in Egyptian society after only one year in power.
The deposed president, dressed in a dark blue suit and white shirt with open collar, smiled and held his hands up to the crowd, looking healthy and resolute.
The judge, Ahmed Sabry, called for calm in order to begin proceedings. But he managed to get only as far as a roll call of the defendants before being interrupted by Mr Morsi.
“This was an illegal military coup. I am Dr Mohamed Morsi and I am the legitimate president,” he began, slowly raising his voice so he could be heard over the loudspeakers, through which Judge Sabry could be heard calling for order.