CAIRO – Egypt’s top prosecutor on Sunday referred ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to trial on charges of inciting the killing of opponents protesting outside his palace while he was in office, the state news agency said.
The military ousted Morsi on July 3 after millions took to the streets demanding that he step down. He’s been held incommunicado since. Despite other accusations by prosecutors, the decision Sunday is Morsi’s first referral to trial. No date was announced for the trial.
Morsi will be tried in a criminal court for allegedly inciting his supporters to kill at least 10 people, use violence and unlawfully detain and torture protesters. Fourteen other members of the Muslim Brotherhood will be tried with Morsi, including top aides and leading members of his political party.
The case dates back to one of the deadliest bouts of violence during Morsi’s one year in office. At least 100,000 protesters gathered outside the presidential palace Dec. 4, protesting a decree Morsi issued to protect his decisions from judicial oversight and a highly disputed draft constitution that was hurriedly adopted by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
Protesters demanded that Morsi call off a referendum scheduled days later. The next day, Islamist groups and supporters of Morsi attacked protesters who had camped outside the presidential palace, sparking deadly street battles that left at least 10 dead and sent chills among Morsi’s opponents that he had relied on organized mobs to suppress the sit-in.
The state news agency said an investigation by prosecutors revealed that Morsi had asked the Republican Guard and the minister in charge of police to break up the sit-in, but they feared a bloody confrontation and declined. The agency said Morsi’s aides then summoned their supporters to forcefully break up the sit-in.
At least one journalist was killed in these clashes and 54 civilians were held and tortured by Morsi supporters outside the palace, before they handed them over to the police.
Officials from the Brotherhood and its political party denied using violence to quell critics and said supporters were defending the palace. They accused opponents of starting the battles and forcing away police that had been guarding the area.
Those referred to trial with Morsi include the deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s political party, Essam el-Erian, who is currently in hiding. They also include leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy, who was arrested this week, as well as leading pro-Brotherhood youth leaders who were videotaped during the street clashes on the front lines.
Since Morsi’s ouster, authorities have waged an intensive security crackdown on members of the Brotherhood. The crackdown followed the violent breakup of weekslong sit-ins held in Cairo by Morsi supporters demanding his reinstatement that left hundreds dead.