The judge presiding over the trial of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi adjourned the proceedings on Monday after Morsi and his Islamist co-defendants began defiantly chanting in court. Morsi chanted “Down with military rule,” interrupted the proceedings repeatedly, called the trial illegitimate and referred to himself as Egypt’s legitimate president, news agencies reported.
A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and of ousted president Mohamed Morsi holds a poster of Morsi during a rally outside the Police Academy where his trial is taking place on November 4, 2013, in Cairo. Egypt's deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi went on trial in a Cairo courthouse over protester deaths, raising fears of new bloodshed four months after the army ousted him. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Egypt’s Ahram Online reports:
Mohamed Morsi has asserted that he is the legitimate president of the country, calling on "Egypt's judiciary not to provide cover for the criminal coup d'etat," in reference to his ouster on 3 July.
Morsi added that he was brought to court "by force" calling on the judges to allow him to practice his powers as president, reported Al-Ahram Arabic news website.
An Ahram Online reporter covering the trial reported that “minor scuffles broke out inside the court between supporters and opponents of the deposed president.”
Morsi -- who along with his codefendants was held in a cage in court -- faces charges of incitement to violence and murder in the trial which opened Monday morning in Cairo. If convicted, the former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president could face a life sentence or even the death penalty.
The Associated Press quotes security officials inside the court who told the news agency that after the judge called Morsi a “defendant,” Morsi answered, "I am Dr. Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic. I am Egypt's legitimate president,” adding that he refused to be tried by the court.
The opening of the trial was delayed by some two hours, because Morsi -- who wore a blue suit -- refused to put on a prison uniform.
Once the hearing began, Judge Ahmed Sabry Youssef adjourned those gathered after Morsi and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood officials who are also defendants started chanting, according to AP.
Supporters of Morsi believe his trial is just one example of the efforts by the current military-backed government to crush the Muslim Brotherhood.
Security around Cairo and around the trial location has been tight amid concerns clashes could erupt. Morsi was brought by helicopter to the court from the secret location in which he has been held since being deposed in July.
Court authorities switched the trial venue to a police academy only one day before its opening in an apparent effort to prevent Muslim Brotherhood supporters from organizing rallies. AP described the trial site on Monday as surrounded by hundreds of riot police supported by armored vehicles with helicopters hovering overhead.
Tahrir Square, the site of both the massive demonstrations calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak and then two years later Morsi was sealed off by military armored vehicles and barbed wire, Reuters reports.
Still, several hundred Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered outside the trial venue, according to AP, carrying posters with Morsi’s photo and the yellow four-finger salute commemorating the Muslim Brotherhood rally in August which was violently dispersed.
The AP reports that Morsi has said he will represent himself and that he has not been allowed to meet with lawyers. His supporters call his detention a “kidnapping.”
Other defendants include top Brotherhood leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian who face charges connected with clashes outside the presidential palace which killed at least 10 in December after Morsi tried to expand his power.