DAVID D KIRKPATRICK & MAYY EL SHEIKH
As Egypt’s new military-led government consolidates its power,Mohammed Morsi,the deposed president,went on trial Monday,facing charges of inciting the murder of protesters,but he rejected the courts authority and proclaimed himself to be the countrys legitimate ruler.
The trial got off to a late start,and the case was soon adjourned until January 8.
The trials brief opening was Morsis first public appearance since his removal from office on July 3 and,in a dizzying turn for Egypt,the second criminal trial of a former head of state in less than three years. Former President Hosni Mubarak,ousted in February 2011 and now under house arrest in a military hospital,is facing a retrial at the same site,the auditorium of a police academy.
According to the website of Al Ahram,Egypts flagship state newspaper,the trial got under way as Morsi and 14 other Islamist defendants appeared in a caged dock and court officials called out their names. But news reports said the hearing was first delayed and then suspended after Morsi refused to dress in prison clothing and chants by his co-defendants drowned out the proceedings.
Journalists who were allowed into the courtroom were not permitted to take communications devices,limiting the flow of information. But witnesses in the courtroom said Morsi declared,This trial is illegitimate, and said he was still Egypts lawful president.
Morsis Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood had called for major protests against the trial,and the Interior Ministry said it had deployed thousands of riot police officers to secure the streets. Shortly before 11 am,as the trial began,the streets remained quiet,but the number of demonstrators began to grow from only a few dozen to perhaps 100 in two locations outside the court.
Pro-Morsi demonstrators gathered in larger numbers at the Supreme Constitutional Court in the Maadi district of southern Cairo,witnesses said.
He is charged with inciting the murders of at least three protesters in a night of street fighting between his supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in December. But rights advocates say the charges are selective at best.
Morsi has been held incommunicado since his ouster,without access to lawyer. A legal team preparing to represent him has said he has spoken at least twice with his family over the telephone. But his supporters have said they do not recognize authority of the court,deeming the current military-backed government illegal and illegitimate.