Egypt’s deposed president Mohammed Morsi has rejected a court’s authority to put him on trial, saying he is still the country’s leader.
The trial, which was interrupted twice on its first day by shouting in the courtroom, was adjourned until January 8 to allow lawyers time to review the case against Morsi and his 14 co-defendants – all prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, has been held at an undisclosed location since the military ousted him in a coup on July 3.
The 62-year-old Morsi, who wore a dark blue suit, light shirt and no tie, was feisty and healthy-looking during his court appearance.
He had refused to wear a prison uniform as the judge had ordered, according to security officials, as part of his rejection of the trial’s legitimacy.
The dispute had delayed the start of the session by two hours, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.
Morsi and his co-defendants face charges of inciting the killing of protesters who massed outside the presidential palace in December and demanded he call off a referendum on a new constitution drafted by his Islamist allies.
Brotherhood members attacked a sit-in by the protesters, sparking clashes that left 10 people dead.
Silent video broadcast on state TV showed Morsi arriving in a minibus outside the makeshift courtroom at a police academy in eastern Cairo, buttoning a dark blue jacket as he stepped from the vehicle and flanked by policemen.
Another clip from inside the courtroom showed his co-defendants standing – all in white prison uniforms – in two lines like a guard of honor, applauding Morsi as he joined them in the defendants’ cage.
His co-defendants, with their backs to the court, raised their hands in a four-fingered gesture, a sign commemorating the hundreds of his supporters killed when security forces moved to clear pro-Morsi sit-in sites in August.
Reporters in the courtroom were not allowed to bring cameras, computers or cellphones as authorities sought to keep tight control on the proceedings.
During the session, Morsi rejected the proceedings and said he had been forced to attend.
When Judge Ahmed Sabry Youssef called out Morsi’s name as one of the defendants, the ousted president, to the cheers of defense lawyers, replied: “I am Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic.”
The judge interrupted him, saying rules for addressing the court must be observed.
Morsi still went on: “I am Dr Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic. I am here by force and against my will. The coup is a crime and treason.”
Morsi later refused to enter a plea and demanded that he be given a microphone, although his voice was loud enough for everyone in the lecture hall converted into a courtroom to hear.
“This is not my court,” Morsi went on. “This court, with all due respect, doesn’t have jurisdiction over the president.
“There is a military coup in this country. The leaders of this coup must be brought to trial according to the constitution.”
If convicted, Morsi and the other defendants could face the death penalty.