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Egypt's Morsi to Stand Trial for Prison Breaks, Murder

  • Edward Yeranian

FILE - A Nov. 2013 image made from video provided by Egypt's Interior Ministry shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi (R), speaking from the defendant's cage during a trial hearing in Cairo, Egypt.

FILE - A Nov. 2013 image made from video provided by Egypt's Interior Ministry shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi (R), speaking from the defendant's cage during a trial hearing in Cairo, Egypt.

Egyptian prosecutors say ousted president Mohamed Morsi will stand trial on a third set of criminal charges, in an apparent bid to strengthen the legal campaign against the former Islamist leader and his allies.

The new set of charges filed Saturday, which come as little surprise to most observers in the Egyptian capital, accuse Morsi and others of breaking out of Wadi el-Natroun prison and organizing jail breaks during the chaos surrounding the 2011 popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak.

The charges also allege that Morsi murdered police officers in collaboration with foreign militants during the 2011 revolution.

Morsi was charged along with about 130 co-defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, his top deputy Mahmoud Ezzat, former parliament speaker Sa'ad Qatatni, and prominent Brotherhood leaders Essam ElArian and Mohamed Baltagi.

The charges also accuse several foreign parties, including Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, Gaza's Hamas group and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of instigating the upheaval that led to the prison break in January 2011.

In a written statement, Judge Hassan Samir described claims of involvement by foreign groups as “the most dangerous crime of terrorism the country has witnessed.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel voiced concern over the charges against Morsi in a phone call Thursday with Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi played a leading role in the military coup that ousted President Morsi in July, after weeks of mass anti-government protests.

Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem, an established activist, argues that foreign critics of Egypt's new interim government have been rushing to judgment in the Morsi case and should allow the Egyptian judiciary to do its job.

"We know he's been charged and it was only today that the court has been sent the actual memorandum containing the charges," said Kassem. "Chuck Hagel, the [news] wires, what are they talking about? Can't they wait? It's becoming disturbing, this amount of noise they are creating. Due process requires, if they want justice for Morsi, to wait and see.”

Mohamed Kamal, a former member of Mubarak's ruling party and a political science professor at Cairo University, argues that many of the details of what took place during the 2011 uprising against former President Mubarak are still not clear and need further investigation.

"We need an investigation that should be conducted by an independent team or agency, to know exactly who was involved in these incidents of attacking police stations and several prisons all over Egypt. Definitely, those who were involved were not the peaceful young people who demonstrated in Tahrir Square,” he said.

Ousted President Morsi broke out of prison during the 18-day uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak, along with other top Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Morsi told al Jazeera TV at the time that “residents” of his prison had “opened” the facility and that he and his comrades did not break out.

No trial date has been set.

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