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Morsy decries 'treason' at trial

| Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
This image made from video provided by Egypt's Interior Ministry shows ousted President Mohammed Morsi, right, speaking from the defendant's cage as he stands with co-defendants in a makeshift courtroom during a trial hearing in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 3, 2013. Emerging from four months in secret detention, Egypt's deposed Islamist president defiantly rejected a court's authority to try him Monday, saying he was the country's 'legitimate' leader and those that overthrew him should face charges instead.(AP Photo/Egyptian Interior Ministry)
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Egyptian students hang up a portrait of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on the facade of a building of Cairo's university during a protest to support Morsi on the first day of his trial on November 4, 2013. Morsi appeared in court on the first day of his trial, rejecting its legitimacy and demanding 'coup' leaders be prosecuted. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMED EL-SHAHEDMOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images

CAIRO — Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy and other Muslim Brotherhood defendants denounced their trial on criminal charges during a brief appearance on Monday.

Judge Ahmed Sabry twice suspended the three-hour hearing as defendants shouted and lawyers scuffled. He finally adjourned it until Jan. 8 and ordered Morsy held in a prison near Alexandria.

“I am Dr. Mohamed Morsy, the president of the republic,” the deposed leader shouted from a black mesh defendant's cage. “I don't want the judiciary to be a cover for a coup.”

It was his first public appearance since his July 3 ouster. He wore a dark suit and looked fit, despite rumors that he had been mistreated or fallen ill while in custody. He refused to wear a prison jumpsuit.

Calling his ouster “treason,” he demanded trials for “the leaders of the coup.”

Morsy and 14 co-defendants are accused of inciting violence against protesters in a December demonstration in which 11 people died and more than 600 were injured. Scores of protesters were imprisoned overnight and beaten by Brotherhood followers.

Five Brotherhood leaders among the accused, dressed in white prison tracksuits, applauded Morsy and chanted against the military.

Their lawyers raised four fingers to recall the hundreds of Morsy supporters killed or arrested during the August break-up of two Islamist sit-ins.

Egyptian reporters covering the proceeding chanted as well. “Execution, God willing, execution!” one female journalist shouted. She was quickly joined by others standing on wooden benches and pointing at Morsy.

At one point, opposing lawyers nearly came to blows.

Cameras and other recording devices were banned; only Egyptian state television was allowed to film the hearing.

The defendants include Essam el-Erian, former deputy chairman of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice political party, and senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed el-Beltagy.

Eight others charged in the case are in hiding and will be tried in absentia.

The case revolves around a Dec. 5 protest against Morsy's assumption of near-absolute powers. Brotherhood followers attacked the small sit-in at the presidential palace, and clashes spread across the capital; the Brotherhood said eight of its followers died.

The charges — filed by respected human-rights lawyer Ragia Omran, months before Morsy's ouster — are related to three slayings, more than 40 cases of torture and injuries suffered by more than 200.

Morsy supporters held a small demonstration near the heavily guarded court compound and marched in sections of Cairo, but not in the large numbers of earlier days.

The courtroom, in a police academy, was the site of a trial for Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted as president in 2011. On one wall topped by barbed-wire was graffiti reading “Mubarak is the president.” More than 1,000 Islamists have been killed and thousands arrested since August.

Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. Email her at

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