EGYPT’S DEPOSED ISLAMIST president Mohamed Morsi has been brought to a courthouse to face trial over protester deaths, raising fears of renewed violence four months after he was toppled by the army.
Morsi’s supporters, battered by a bloody and sweeping police crackdown, accuse the army-installed government of fabricating the charges against him and have called for protests against the military.
Morsi was flown in by helicopter to the police academy in the Egyptian capital where the trial is being convened, and 14 co-defendants were also present, said Cairo security chief Osama al-Soghayar.
“His helicopter landed… The others were driven to the court during curfew hours,” another security official said.
Morsi, who the army has held at a secret location since his 3 July ousting, is accused along with the other 14 of inciting the murder of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
The charges against Morsi could lead to the death penalty or life in prison.
Egypt is on high alert for the trial, with 20,000 policemen to be deployed and authorities saying they are ready to deal with any outbreak of violence.
With more than 1,000 people killed since Morsi’s overthrow and thousands of Islamists arrested, hopes for a political settlement between the Islamists and interim government are slim.
“Morsi’s presence in the court will definitely energise his supporters and raise possibilities of new protests and clashes,” said Shadi Hamid, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center.
The trial will be seen as a test for Egypt’s new authorities, who have come under fire from rights groups for their heavy-handed approach in dealing with dissent.
“They should present Mohamed Morsi in court and grant him a fair trial, including the right to challenge the evidence against him in court,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.
“Failing to do so would further call into question the motives behind his trial.”
A riot policeman stands guard behind barbed wire outside the police academy compound [Image: Manu Brabo/AP/Press Association Images]
Analysts believe the political nature of the trial will drive its outcome.
“This is first and foremost a political trial and an important one. There is zero chance of it being free and fair,” said Hamid.
“The trial is a clear reminder of a polarised Egyptian society at this moment of time.”