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January 07, 2014

Morsi Trial to Resume as Egypt Protests Grow

by Henry Ridgwell

The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday Egypt's democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in a military coup last July. Morsi is accused of inciting the killing of anti-government protesters in 2012, as well as other alleged crimes. But supporters from his Muslim Brotherhood movement insist Morsi is still Egypt’s legitimate leader.

Protests by supporters of Morsi have been building ahead of the resumption of his trial.

Demonstrations turned violent after Friday prayers last week and at least 17 protesters were killed.  At one point, Morsi’s supporters used a hijacked bus to try to break through police lines.

​​The unrest is a deliberate ploy by the Muslim Brotherhood, says Professor Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics.

“The strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood is to make the situation as unstable as possible in order to really frustrate the military-led government’s effort to say ‘Look, we have stability, we have security,’" said Gerges. "But what you’re going to have is more instability, more insecurity, a low-level insurgency.”

In recent weeks there has been a series of bomb attacks on military and government targets.  The government blames the Muslim Brotherhood - and last month Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa announced the organization would be outlawed as a terrorist group.

Eissa said the state and the people "will never succumb to the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose crimes have gone far beyond all moral, religious and human limits."

Mohamed Morsi is standing trial alongside 14 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood, charged in the killings of protesters outside his presidential palace in December 2012.

At his first court appearance last November, Morsi said he did not recognize the court’s authority and said he was Egypt’s legitimate president.

Fawaz Gerges says it is impossible for Morsi to get a fair trial.

He says, “Egypt has reached a point of no return. And there’s a real danger that the transition from authoritarianism to pluralism might really face some major challenges, given the exclusive political process that’s evolving in Egypt after the arrest and toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.”

In the months since the coup, human rights groups say the military-led government has committed crimes against humanity against Morsi supporters.

A team of international lawyers has lodged a formal complaint at the International Criminal Court. Among them is Maha Azzam, chair of the group Egyptians for Democracy UK.

“On a daily basis there are extraordinary abuses of human rights taking place against men, women and children, and I reiterate children. Egypt's government needs to be held accountable for those abuses,” said Azzam.

Mohamed Morsi is facing other legal charges from his time in office - including fraud, and conspiring with the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah to commit terrorist acts.  He denies the accusations.

Morsi is also accused of conspiring with foreign militants, during the 2011 uprising against ex-president Hosni Mubarak, in a plot to free prisoners and spread chaos.  
That trial is scheduled to begin later this month.