Morsi likely represent himself in trial; if convicted, Egypt’s first freely elected president could face death penalty.
Egypt’s deposed Islamist president was brought from the secret location of his four-month detention to face trial Monday on charges of incitement of violence and murder. It was Mohammed Morsi‘s first public appearance since his ouster in a coup on July 3.
If convicted, Morsi — Egypt‘s first freely elected president — could face the death penalty.
Since his ouster, Morsi has been held at a secret military location. He was flown Monday to the venue of his trial — a police academy in an eastern Cairo district — by helicopter. His co-defendants, 14 senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood, were taken to the venue from their jail in a suburb south of the city, in armored police cars.
The proceedings were expected to start by mid-morning Monday.
The trial is fraught with risks and comes amid a highly charged atmosphere in a bitterly polarized nation, with a deepening schism between Morsi’s Islamist supporters in one hand and Egypt’s security establishment and the nation’s moderate Muslims, secularists, Christians and women on the other.
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 from which Morsi hails.
Security was tight around the trial’s venue, with hundreds of black-clad riot police backed by armored vehicles deployed around the sprawling complex. Several armored vehicles belonging to the army were deployed too. The final stretch of road leading to the academy was sealed off, with only authorized 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.
Since his ouster in the July popularly-backed coup, Morsi has been held at a secret military location with little communication to the outside world. He will likely represent himself in the trial, the first time public figure to do so in the host of trials of politicians since the autocrat Mubarak’s ouster, Brotherhood lawyers have said.
Morsi will also likely use the platform to insist he is still the legitimate president of Egypt, question the trial’s legitimacy and turn it into an indictment of the popularly backed July 3 coup, further energizing his supporters in the street.
During four months of detention, Morsi has been extensively questioned and has not been allowed to meet with 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, and Morsi has refused to cooperate with his interrogators.
Morsi will face charges along with 14 other Brotherhood figures and allies — including top leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian — in connection to clashes last December outside his presidential palace that left at least 10 dead.
Unlike Mubarak’s trial, the proceedings against Morsi are not likely to be aired live and the former president will probably be taken back to the place he has been held instead of being transferred to a normal prison after the first session, for fear his supporters would turn the prison into a “focal point of endless protests.”