Egypt’s deposed President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday rejected the right of a court to try him and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders on charges related to a mass jail break in 2011, security and judicial sources said.
Morsi and his comrades, including the Brotherhood’s top leader Mohamed Badie, are charged with killing and kidnapping policemen, attacking police facilities and breaking out of jail during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
“As far as I’m concerned, these procedures are void and I don’t accept them,” Morsi said, describing himself as the president of the republic and calling on the Egyptian people to continue their “peaceful revolution,” according to the sources.
Some of the other roughly 130 defendants, who were held in a different courtroom cage from Morsi, applauded him and chanted: “Down with military rule!” It is not unusual for high-profile defendants to be locked up in cages in Egyptian courts.
The authorities have fiercely suppressed the Brotherhood since army chief, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, toppled Morsi in July following mass protests against him. Thousands of Morsi supporters have been jailed and hundreds killed.
The case was adjourned to February 24 after the lawyers defending Muslim cleric Safwat Hegazy asked for the judges to be replaced, a matter pending approval from another court.
One lawyer, Mohamed Abou Layla, said the request had been made because the court was not cooperating with the defense team. Another said the judges had refused a request to remove the glass cage to allow defendants to follow proceedings better.
Egypt’s authorities have leveled five sets of charges at Morsi, including insulting the judiciary, inciting the killing of protesters and international conspiracy. Morsi could face the death penalty. The Muslim Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago, has said it views Morsi as a political prisoner.
In a separate case, a court in Alexandria acquitted six policemen accused of killing dozens of protesters in 2011.
Militant attacks in Egypt have intensified in recent months with bombings and shootings spreading beyond the Sinai peninsula. On Saturday, a national security officer was shot dead by gunmen in Sharqiya province north of Cairo in what Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi called an assassination.
Sinai-based militants have focused attacks on security forces, but this month shifted to softer targets, killing two South Korean tourists in a bomb attack in South Sinai.