CAIRO — The trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi that is set to begin November 4 is expected to heighten political divisions in the volatile nation and test the credibility of Egypt's judicial system.
Morsi stands accused of inciting murder and violence during riots last year outside the presidential palace in Cairo. Other charges are pending.
In a nation torn between supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood and backers of the new military-led government, the split is becoming ever more defined.
On the one side, Morsi's detractors.
This man says any Egyptian who has lived on Egypt's soil, drank from the River Nile and betrayed Egypt must be tried and executed.
Deep split widens
On the other side, Morsi defenders.
Abdel Azeem said he believes all the charges are fabricated.
And then there's the position of the accused himself. Veteran diplomat Abdullah al Ashaal advised Morsi during his presidency. "Morsi is stuck to the idea that he is still the president and he doesn't accept the jurisdiction of the court,” he said.
Al Ashaal sees the trial as purely political. "His crime was that he is a civilian and he dared to sit on the place of a military.”
Yet others defend Egypt's judiciary, noting that Morsi's predecessor, old-guard president Hosni Mubarak, also is on trial.
Legal system gets tested
Political analyst Saad Eddin Ibrahim, of the Ibn Khaldun Center, said the judiciary is up to the task. "The fact that there are trials, and that there is due process and that the accused, even though he is a president, a former president, will have his day in court testifies to these two aspects."
Unlike Mubarak's trial, however, it is not clear if Morsi's will be made public. Indications are the case could be heard in secret in Cairo's notorious Tora prison.
And there seems to be no quick end to Egypt's cycle of protest, overthrow and trial. At a recent anti-government rally at Cairo University, more cries for “justice” could be heard.
This student demands that anyone - including military leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim - who has killed others must be brought to trial.
Such talk further stokes controversy around recent leaks, denied by the government, that el-Sissi has sought a protected position in his role as defense minister in the new draft constitution.