CAIRO – Egypt’s deposed Islamist president was brought from the secret location of his four-month detention to face trial today on charges of incitement of violence and murder. It was Mohammed Morsi’s first public appearance since his ouster in a coup on July 3.
If convicted, Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected president – could face the death penalty.
Since his ouster, Morsi has been held at a secret military location. He was flown today to the venue of his trial – a police academy in an eastern Cairo district – by helicopter.
Morsi will face charges along with 14 other Brotherhood figures and allies – including top leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian – in connection to clashes last December outside his presidential palace that left at least 10 dead. The proceedings were expected to start by midmorning today.
The trial is fraught with risks and comes amid a highly charged atmosphere in a bitterly polarized nation, with a deepening schism between Morsi’s Islamist supporters on one hand and Egypt’s security establishment and the nation’s moderate Muslims, secularists, Christians and women on the other.
In a last-minute change, authorities switched the trial location Sunday, a move apparently aimed at thwarting mass rallies planned by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails.
Morsi has been held at a secret military location with little communication to the outside world. He will likely represent himself in the trial, Brotherhood lawyers have said.
Morsi will also likely use the platform to insist he is still the legitimate president of Egypt, question the trial’s legitimacy and turn it into an indictment of the popularly backed July 3 coup, further energizing his supporters in the street.