CAIRO – The trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi began on a defiant note inside a sealed courtroom Monday, with Morsi refusing to don the white garments required of defendants here and telling a judge: I am Egypt’s legitimate president I refuse to be tried by this court.
Morsi and his co-defendants, who, like him, are loyal to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, then began chanting to disrupt the proceedings.
Presiding Judge Ahmed Sabry Youssef responded by adjourning the trial for two months. It is scheduled to resume Jan. 8.
Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, has been charged with murder and incitement to violence. He has been held virtually incommunicado since he was deposed in a military coup July 3, and he was brought to the trial in a military helicopter.
After the trial was postponed, state television reported that Morsi was being transferred to a prison in the coastal city of Alexandria. It was unclear why.
Cameras and recording devices were prohibited inside the courtroom. That meant that the proceedings unfolded out of sight from the nation that chose Morsi as its leader in 2012.
Silent video footage released later showed Morsi wearing a suit with no tie as he entered the cage-like docket to the applause of his co-defendants. His co-defendants, dressed in white, stood with their backs to the judges, their hands held high in a four-fingered salute that has become a symbol of solidarity for those opposed to the military coup.
The salute recalls a raid on the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in August in which hundreds were killed; the word Rabaa means four in Arabic, and so activists use the four-fingered salute to recall the massacre. The symbol has become ubiquitous on signs and pins at protests, and as an avatar on social media.
In the footage, lawyers and Egyptian journalists appeared to be shouting from the audience. Witnesses said two journalists called loudly for Morsi’s execution, reflecting the strong anti-Muslim Brotherhood stance adopted by both state-run and private media in Egypt since the coup.
Morsi was originally supposed to be tried at Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison. But officials said Sunday the proceedings were being moved to the police academy, a compound ringed by high walls and concertina wire. Morsi’s supporters said the shift, away from a cluster of neighborhoods where Morsi still commands wide popularity, made it more difficult for protesters to demonstrate in force.
Because Morsi does not accept the terms of the trial, he has refused to accept legal representation, said Nasser Soliman, one of a group of several dozen defense attorneys who are loyal to Morsi.
Still, dozens of lawyers came to the police academy and demanded access to Morsi and his co-defendants, and the evidence against them. The lawyers said they applied for permits to attend the trial, but mostly had been denied.
There is not a single attorney for Mohamed Morsi, one lawyer yelled at police officers through the barbed wire barrier, his face red and distorted in fury.