Morsi arrives for his trial

Morsi arrives for his trial

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 her was ousted in a coup on July 3.

If convicted, Mr Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected president – could face the death penalty.

Since he was overthrown, Mr 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, reported Egypt’s official MENA news agency.

His co-defendants, 14 senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood, were taken to the venue from their jail in a suburb south of the city, in armoured police cars.

The trial is fraught with risks and comes amid a highly charged atmosphere in a bitterly polarised nation.

In a last-minute change, authorities yesterday switched the trial location, a move apparently aimed at thwarting mass rallies planned by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Mr Morsi hails.

Security was tight around the trial’s venue, with hundreds of black-clad riot police backed by armoured vehicles deployed around the sprawling complex.

Several armoured vehicles belonging to the army were deployed too. The final stretch of road leading to the academy was sealed off, with only authorised personnel and accredited journalists allowed to approach the facility.

The academy is also being used for the re-trial of another former president - Hosni Mubarak – toppled in a 2011 uprising. He is accused of failing to stop the killing of protesters.

Since he was ousted in the popularly-backed coup in July, Mr Morsi has been held with little communication with the outside world.

He will probably represent himself in the trial, the first public figure to do so in the host of trials of politicians since Mr Mubarak was ousted, Brotherhood lawyers have said.

Mr Morsi is also expected to 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 July 3 coup, further energising his supporters in the street.

During four months of detention, he has been extensively questioned and has not been allowed to meet lawyers.

He has spoken at least twice by telephone to his family and received two foreign delegations. Brotherhood supporters have called the detention an outright kidnapping, and Morsi has refused to co-operate with his interrogators.

Mr Morsi will face charges along with 14 other Brotherhood figures and allies - including senior leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian – in connection with clashes last December outside his presidential palace that left at least 10 dead.

Unlike Mr Mubarak’s trial, the proceedings against Mr Morsi are not likely to be aired live and the former president will probably be taken back to the place he has been held instead of being transferred to a normal prison after the first session, for fear his supporters would turn the prison into a “focal point of endless protests”.

Both government officials and Morsi’s supporters forecast bleak scenarios for today, with each side accusing the other of plotting killings, including that of Mr Morsi himself.

A Brotherhood-led group has called for mass rallies, while the interior minister has ordered the deployment of large numbers of security forces to guard the trial venue.

The interior ministry has warned that any breach of security by Morsi supporters would be harshly dealt with.

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