2:18 am - Tuesday December 12, 2017

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi arrives in courtroom for trial.

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Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi arrives in courtroom for trial.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi arrives in courtroom for trial.

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Monday arrived in the courtroom at Cairo police academy for the trial scheduled for today.

Heavy security is in place on Egyptian streets as the country risks fresh eruption of violence in light of the trial of the today.

Charged with inciting violence during clashes outside the presidential palace last December, Morsi along with 14 other Muslim Brotherhood members is due to stand trial today.

If proven guilty, Morsi and others could face death penalty.

Morsi, who was overthrown on July 3 in what the Brotherhood calls a military coup, has been held in a secret location and the trial will be his first public appearance since then.

In a last ditch effort to minimise the pre-empted tensions, the authorities have ordered relocation of the significant trial which will now be held at a police academy in an eastern Cairo.

The shifting of the venue came as the Muslim Brotherhood had planned mass rallies near the Tora prison, the earlier planned venue of the trial.

The security has been tightened in Egypt ahead of the trial as the Interior Ministry has announced a status of alert for all its sectors and ordered deployment of twenty thousand officers and recruits on Monday to guard the new trial venue.

The trial has charged up the political atmosphere in Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood is pitted against the military and security establishment and instances of fresh violence are on the cards.

Egypt witnessed one of its worst bouts of violence in decades on Aug. 14, when security forces violently cleared protest camps set up by Morsi supporters, sparking days of unrest that left more than 1,000 dead. Since then, violent incidents have multiplied: a suicide car bomber tried to assassinate Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in September, and dozens of members of the security forces have been killed in a string of drive-by shootings, explosions and car bombs. Churches have been torched, and in an attack in Cairo last month, five Copts and one Muslim were killed in drive-by shooting at a church.

Both government officials and Morsi’s supporters forecast bleak scenarios for Monday, with each side accusing the other of plotting killings, including that of Morsi himself.

Tight security

Security was tight around the trial’s venue 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 is likely to represent himself in the trial, Brotherhood lawyers have 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.

Unlike Mubarak’s trial, the proceedings against Morsi are not likely to be aired live and Morsi 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”.

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.
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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.

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