Egypt to try deposed leader Mohammed Morsi
04 November 2013, 12:11
Cairo - Egypt is to try deposed president Mohammed Morsi on
Monday over the deaths of protesters, stirring fresh tensions four months after
his dramatic fall from power in a military overthrow.
Morsi's supporters, battered by a bloody and sweeping police
crackdown, accuse the army-installed government of fabricating the charges
against the Islamist leader and have called for anti-military protests, raising
fears of new clashes.
On the eve of the trial, gunmen shot dead two policemen and
injured a third near Ismailia on the west bank of the Suez Canal, security
sources said late on Sunday.
Morsi, who has been held by the army at a secret location
since his 3 July ouster, is accused along with 14 others of inciting the murder
of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
The charges against Morsi could lead to the death penalty or
life in prison.
The country is on high alert ahead of the trial, with 20 000
policemen to be deployed and authorities saying they are ready to deal with any
outbreak of violence.
With more than 1 000 people killed since Morsi's overthrow
and thousands of Islamists arrested, hopes for a political settlement between
the Islamists and the interim government already are slim.
"Morsi's presence in the court will definitely energise
his supporters and raise possibilities of new protests and clashes," said
Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre.
'First and foremost a political trial'
The trial will be seen as a test for Egypt's new
authorities, who have come under fire from rights groups for their heavy-handed
approach in dealing with dissent.
"They should present Mohamed Morsi in court and grant
him a fair trial, including the right to challenge the evidence against him in
court," Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement.
"Failing to do so would further call into question the
motives behind his trial."
But analysts believe the political nature of the trial will
drive its outcome.
"This is first and foremost a political trial and an
important one. There is zero chance of it being free and fair," Hamid
"The trial is a clear reminder of a polarised Egyptian
society at this moment of time," he said.
Egypt's foreign ministry spokesperson Badr Abdelatty told
reporters over the weekend that Morsi will be "tried before a judge
according to Egyptian penal code".
"Nothing extraordinary, nothing exceptional. He will
have rights to have a free and fair trial."
Morsi will be tried in a police complex in east Cairo where
longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak is also being prosecuted.
Morsi's stormy rule came to an abrupt end in a military
overthrow after millions took to the streets to demand his resignation.
A senior leader of the influential and long-banned Muslim
Brotherhood, his victory was made possible by the popular uprising of 2011 that
toppled Mubarak and propelled Islamist movements to the foreground of the
His year-long stint in power, as Egypt's first civilian democratically
elected president, was marred by political turmoil, deadly clashes and a
crippling economic crisis.
Accused of failing ideals of revolution
In November 2012, Morsi issued a decree granting himself
sweeping powers, prompting accusations of a power grab, as opponents accused
him of failing the ideals of the revolution that ousted Mubarak.
The decree was a turning point in Morsi's rule, launching
the worst polarisation in the country's recent history.
A month later, deadly clashes erupted outside the
presidential palace between supporters and opponents of the Islamist leader.
Morsi is accused of inciting that violence.
Accusing police of failing to protect the president, the
Muslim Brotherhood called on supporters to confront the protesters. At least
seven people were killed in the clashes that erupted on December 5 last year.
According to relatives and the few officials who were given
access to him since his detention, Morsi remains defiant.
Unlike his predecessor Mubarak, also on trial facing similar
charges, he will not co-operate with the court, said the Islamist Anti-Coup
Alliance backing Morsi.
The deposed president "does not recognise the authority
of the court," it said in a statement.
His lawyers will attend the hearing only as observers, it