Morsi tells judge ‘I am president’

Egypt’s ousted leader Mohammed Morsi has gone on trial in Cairo, telling the judge the case is illegitimate as he remains president.

He and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood figures face charges of inciting the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in 2012.

After Mr Morsi’s remarks and his refusal to wear a uniform, the judge adjourned the trial until 8 January.

Protests took place outside the court and elsewhere in Cairo.

Mr Morsi was ousted by the military in July after protests against his rule. Until now he has been held at a secret military location but the judge announced that he would instead be taken to jail.

Some reports say he will be held at Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo; others say he will be taken to a jail in Alexandria.

Early on Monday Mr Morsi was airlifted into the sprawling Police Academy compound by helicopter. Other members of the Brotherhood, including Essam el-Erian, Mohammed al-Beltagi and Ahmed Abdel Aatie, were said to have been brought in by armoured personnel carriers.

The former president was seen from a distance in civilian clothes, Egyptian radio reported – his first appearance in public since he was deposed on 3 July. No television pictures were broadcast from the court although journalists were allowed in.

As he entered the courtroom, Mr Morsi refused to remove his blue suit and put on the required white prison uniform. The defendants, who were being held in a cage in the courtroom, chanted “illegal, illegal”.

When asked to give his name, the former president gave a defiant response, according to reporters inside the court.

“I am Dr Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic. I am Egypt’s legitimate president. I refuse to be tried by this court,” he was quoted as saying.

The judge twice temporarily halted proceedings before adjourning the case until January.

Before the trial began Mr el-Erian, a deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s political wing, told the BBC that one of the defendants had been mistreated with some kind of water torture and had been beaten until he was on the point of collapse.

The former president and his co-defendants had been widely expected to use the occasion to underline what they see as the illegitimacy of his removal from power.

Police had to step in at one point because of heckling in the court. The BBC’s Orla Guerin says some of those attending the trial, including women journalists, shouted that the defendants should be given the death penalty.

The trial had been due to take place at Tora prison on the other side of Cairo but had been switched late on Sunday, apparently to deter protesters.

Shortly after Mr Morsi’s arrival, a small crowd arrived and began chanting outside the police compound more than one hour’s drive from the centre of the city.

The crowd soon grew and protesters were briefly seen on state TV chanting slogans against army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Mr Morsi’s removal from power. Demonstrators shouted at a state TV crew and chanted “liars” before pelting them with stones.

The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil: “These protesters still see Morsi as their legitimate president”

Other protests took place in Cairo itself, outside the High Court in the centre of the city and at the Supreme Constitutional Court in the south.

The building was reportedly evacuated.

While state institutions were said to have opened normally on Monday, some private schools had told parents to keep their children at home.

‘Murder and violence’

Although Mr Morsi won the presidency in a democratic election, during his 13 months in power he fell out with key institutions.

The ex-president is accused of “inciting his supporters to carry out premeditated murder, and inciting the use of violence and thuggery” over the deaths of at least 10 people during intense clashes in December 2012 which followed a decree that gave him wide-ranging powers.

After he was ousted, a sit-in protest in Cairo by Mr Morsi’s supporters was violently broken up by the military, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The interim government has also cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mr Morsi hails, banning the Islamist organisation and arresting dozens of senior figures.

His supporters say he was removed in a coup and is now facing a politicised trial. Human rights groups accuse the security services of acting without accountability.

Legal experts say that if convicted Mr Morsi could be jailed for life or face the death penalty.

His senior communications adviser, Wael Haddara, told the BBC that the process was a “charade” because everyone involved had been appointed by the military.

“What is the military afraid of? Why won’t they let him speak? Even prisoners have rights.”

The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Cairo says the court proceedings will be a trial of strength for the two dominant forces in Egyptian life – testing the army’s ability to keep order on the streets and the Islamist movement’s ability to continue to resist under crushing pressure.

Tight security

Mr Morsi has been held at a secret location since he was ousted by the military, who had given the then-president a 48-hour ultimatum to end mass protests against his rule.

The trial of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, is also being held at the Police Academy – meaning there are two former Egyptian presidents being tried concurrently.

Correspondents in Cairo say people are nervous about what the coming days will bring, expecting the trial to deepen the rift between Egyptians and causing greater unrest and instability.

On Sunday evening, gunmen killed two Egyptian policemen near the city of Ismailia, and there are fears more violence could erupt.

An estimated 20,000 security personnel have been deployed to keep order.

Only days before Mr Morsi’s trial, three presiding judges stepped down at the trial of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and his two aides.

Judge Mohammed Fahmy al-Qarmuty said he and his colleagues had a “feeling of embarrassment” over the case.