Mursi trial over protester deaths adjourned

 02 Feb 2014 - 4:56


Egyptian security forces keep watch outside the police academy where the trial of former president Mohamed Mursi and fourteen others takes place, in Cairo yesterday.

CAIRO: A Cairo court yesterday adjourned the trial which sees Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Mursi accused of inciting the killing of protesters, while dozens of supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood were jailed for other crimes.
At yesterday’s hearing Mursi, dressed in a white prison uniform, was held in a glass cage separate from co-defendants, a correspondent reported from the court. Of the 14 co-defendants, seven were present, while the rest are being tried in absentia.
Some of the co-defendants turned their backs on the proceedings and gave a four-fingered “Rabaa” salute, after welcoming Mursi when he entered his cage.
The gesture refers to a massive pro-Mursi protest in Cairo’s Rabaa Al Adawiya Square that was violently dispersed in August, setting off clashes in which hundreds of people, mostly Islamists, were killed.
Four separate sets of charges have been brought against Mursi since he was ousted, at least one of which can carry the death penalty.
Mursi is accused of inciting the killing of protesters outside the Presidential Palace during unrest in late 2012 ignited by a decree that expanded his powers. Around a dozen people were killed.
The trial was adjourned to allow for further examination of video footage showing clashes between pro- and anti-Mursi protesters which may be linked to the case.
Mursi also faces other charges including violence related to a mass jail break in 2011, plotting with foreigners to carry out a terrorist conspiracy against Egypt and insulting the judiciary.
Egypt’s interim government is pursuing a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood, which it declared a “terrorist organisation”.
A court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia sentenced 13 supporters of the Brotherhood yesterday to six years in jail for illegal assembly and destruction of private and public property, judicial sources said.
In Qalyubia province north of Cairo, 32 Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to two years in jail, forced labour and a fine for breaking a law making protests without prior police permission illegal, state news agency Mena reported.
The law was introduced by the interim government last November.
Egypt is pushing ahead with an army-backed plan for political transition, with presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place within months.
Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al Sisi is widely expected to announce his presidential bid and win easily.
His trial is seen as a test for Egypt’s military-installed authorities, who have come under fire for a heavy-handed crackdown on his Islamist supporters after he was forced out by the army last July.
An Islamist coalition backing Mursi called for nationwide protests yesterday to “support the legitimate elected president,” but there were no reports of any demonstrations.
“This court has no jurisdiction to look into the case because Mursi is still the president and no official decision was taken for his ouster,” said lawyer Salim Al Awa, a member of the defence team.
The judge declined a request by Mursi to speak at the proceedings.
Prosecutors showed video footage at yesterday’s hearing of what they said were “supporters of defendants” chanting pro-Mursi slogans, carrying sticks and dismantling protest tents outside the presidential palace in December 2012. At that time, members of the Muslim Brotherhood to which Mursi belongs attacked opposition protesters camped outside the palace in protest at a decree by Mursi to grant himself extra-judicial powers.
At least seven people were killed in the clashes, and dozens of opposition protesters were detained and beaten by Mursi’s supporters.
The incident was a turning point in Mursi’s presidency, galvanising a disparate opposition that eventually organised the mass protests in June 2013 that led to his downfall.
Mursi’s defence says there is no proof he incited the clashes, and that most of those killed in the violence were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which moved in to protect the presidential palace after police withdrew.