CAIRO — An Egyptian judge on Wednesday halted the trial of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood after they shouted slogans and refused to cooperate with the court.
Judge Mustafa Salama said the case of the Brotherhood's General Guide Mohamed Badie and fellow defendants, who are charged with inciting the killing of protesters, would be transferred to the Cairo appeals court.
Badie earlier led his co-accused in chants against the army-backed government, shouting “Down, down with military rule” from the cage where defendants are held in Egypt.
They were arrested in a crackdown on the Islamist group after the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July following mass protests against his rule.
It was the second time their trial had been halted. In October, a separate panel of judges withdrew from the case after a hearing which the defendants did not attend.
The charge against Badie, his deputy Khairat al-Shater, and senior Brotherhood members Saad Katatni and Mohamed El-Beltagi relates to an anti-Brotherhood protest near the group's Cairo headquarters on June 30 in which nine people were killed and 91 wounded.
Security forces have piled pressure on the Brotherhood, banned by a court in September, as authorities press ahead with a planned transition expected to yield presidential and parliamentary elections next year. The next step is a referendum on a new constitution, expected in mid-January.
A 50-member assembly finished the draft last week and handed it to interim President Adly Mansour, who will announce the date of the referendum in a speech on Saturday, his office said in an emailed statement.
“Egypt tasted the sweetness of freedom, dignity and pride after Morsi took the presidency after the January revolution and he will not abandon [the revolution],” Badie told the court, according to judicial sources. He referred to the revolt that led to the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
Relatives of the accused, who earlier chanted “the judiciary of the military” along with the defendants before Salama entered the courtroom, erupted in applause after the judge announced the case would be transferred.
Badie said earlier this week the Brotherhood had perpetrated no violence, as his trial in another case began at a police academy where Morsi appeared in court last month.
Police fired tear gas for the third day running on Wednesday at student supporters of the Brotherhood at Al-Azhar University, the scene of frequent anti-government demonstrations.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told a news conference that security forces could “finish off” protests “in five minutes” but that he was trying to avoid injuries. He has presided over the security forces during the worst violence in Egypt's history following the army's ouster of Morsi.
Despite the crackdown, the Brotherhood has held near-daily demonstrations, undeterred even since security forces killed hundreds of protesters in August.