Trial of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi opened and adjourned


Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi shout slogans outside the Police Academy where his trial is taking place on Nov. 4, 2013, in Cairo.


Gianluigi Guercia

Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi arrived by helicopter in Cairo on Monday to face charges of incitement to murder for the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012.

But the proceedings came to an abrupt end, with the judge adjourning the hearing after Morsi and other defendants interrupted the court and refused accept the court's legitimacy. The trial is set to start again on Jan. 8, 2014, according to Egyptian state TV

Security officials said Morsi told the court: "I am Dr. Mohamed Morsi, the president of the republic. I am Egypt's legitimate president." He reportedly added: "I refuse to be tried by this court."

The country is tense and security forces are on high alert for the trial of the former president, who was deposed in July during protests against his increasingly authoritarian rule.

Morsi has effectively been held incommunicado since, reportedly speaking only with his family and high-ranking diplomats on rare occasions. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has continued its protest against Morsi's detention, and on Monday the Islamist group called for its followers to participate in nationwide protests against the trial.

Egypt's interior ministry said it had deployed thousands of officers — possibly 20,000 men — to secure the streets. So far no mass disturbances have been reported, and the Brotherhood said the day's demonstrations would be non-violent. 

Monday "will witness major peaceful protest events outside consulates and human rights centers in Egypt and abroad, to reaffirm popular rejection of the military coup, and to hail the steadfastness and persistence of the legitimate elected President," a Brotherhood-led alliance said in a statement.

Egyptian state media reported Morsi had been taken inside the Police Academy in Cairo, where 14 other Brotherhood figures, including Essam el-Erian, Mohammed al-Beltagi and Ahmed Abdel Aati were also being held. If convicted, all could face the death penalty.

The trial, which began just before 11 a.m. local time, marks Morsi's first public appearance and is the second criminal trial of the nation's head of state in a little less than three years.  

Former President Hosni Mubarak, who is out of jail and in house arrest at a military hospital, was in February 2011 also deposed by protesters backed by the military. The aging Mubarak will have a retrial at the same location as Morsi.  

More from GlobalPost: Morsi on trial: 3 questions with Egypt correspondent Louisa Loveluck 

The el-Watan, a daily newspaper connected with the ruling military, published what may be remarks from Morsi on Sunday. In the transcript the paper claims Morsi is "in total denial," with the former president saying, "I am the president of the republic, in accordance with the constitution."

The paper also quoted Morsi 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."

Morsi's senior adviser, Wael Haddara, told the BBC on Sunday that the entire trial was a "charade" and that those involved had been hand picked by the military, which is led by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi.

"What is the military afraid of? Why won't they let him speak? Even prisoners have rights," Haddara said.

Rights group Amnesty International said Morsi's trial would serve as a test for Egypt's rulers.

"They should present Mohammed Morsi in court and grant him a fair trial, including the right to challenge the evidence against him," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program, in a statement issued Sunday. "Failing to do so would further call into question the motives behind his trial."