Egypt: A defiant Morsi calls trial 'illegitimate'

Former Egyptian leader charged with inciting violence during his presidency; trial adjourned until Jan. 8

Ousted President Mohamed Morsi, center, in a mesh cage with other defendants during a hearing at a police academy in Cairo, Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in a still from an Egyptian state TV broadcast.
Egyptian State Television via AP video

A hearing for Egypt's deposed President Mohamed Morsi and 14 others was adjourned by a judge on Monday soon after it started because chants from the defendants disrupted the proceedings, Egypt's state TV reported.  

The adjournment came after a two-hour delay in the start of the hearing. The trial is set to resume Jan. 8, 2014.

Security officials in the courtroom said the delay was caused by Morsi's insistence on not changing into the prison uniform customarily worn by defendants, part of his refusal to recognize the trial's legitimacy. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Click for news and analysis on Egypt.

"Morsi said this (prison uniform) was undignified, refusing to recognize that he was a defendant or that he had a case to answer,” Al Jazeera's Sue Turton reported from Cairo. Morsi said he remains the country's legitimate leader and that coup organizers should face charges instead.

Osama Morsi, the former president’s son, told Al Jazeera that he was his father’s primary lawyer but that he would not force him to participate in the trial.

"He decides what he will do... We do not accept the trial,” he said. “Morsi is the legitimate president."

Mohamed al-Damati, another Morsi lawyer, said the defense team had no access to Morsi and only received court documents on Saturday night, although a request for the papers was filed more than 20 days ago.

Morsi, 62, was removed from power in a military coup on July 3 after millions of Egyptians took to the streets demanding he step down. The military quickly established a civilian government following the coup and called elections for next year.

The months since the coup have seen a crackdown on senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood and sometimes deadly raids on Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The turmoil has increased sectarian tension in the country, prompting attacks on Egypt's Christian minority.

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.

Other defendants being tried with Morsi include Essam el-Erian, vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, and Mohamed el-Beltagi, a former member of parliament.

Morsi will be held in Borg Al Arab prison near Alexandria, Interior Ministry sources told Al Jazeera. He is facing charges for the deaths of three of 11 protesters who were killed in the violent clashes during demonstrations against his constitutional declaration, which gave him vast powers that many believed were steps toward authoritarianism.

The trial, which is not being aired live on state TV, is taking place at a heavily fortified police academy on the outskirts of Cairo. It is the same venue used during the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a 2011 uprising and is currently under house arrest.

If convicted, Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, could face the death penalty.

Bleak expectations

A coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood called for a mass protest Monday, forcing the military-backed government to put extensive security arrangements in place.

The Interior Ministry said that about 20,000 security personnel would be deployed to secure the trial location and other state institutions. The ministry said in a statement that it would take all "security measures to prevent possible attacks, in accordance with the law."

Egyptian police arrested at least five pro-Morsi supporters outside the trial on Monday. 

Both government officials and Morsi's supporters forecasted bleak scenarios for Monday, with each side accusing the other of plotting killings, including Morsi's.

A senior Interior Ministry official told The Associated Press his ministry had received information that Brotherhood supporters would engage in acts of violence, "including assassinations of top religious figures, suicide attacks and targeting military facilities."

Al Jazeera and wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter