Posts Tagged ‘Morsi’

Egypt’s mass death sentences raise human rights concerns

March 26, 2014

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Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant's cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant’s cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

By Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, March 25 (Xinhua) — The recent ruling that handed down death sentences to more than 500 supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi has raised serious concerns on human rights in the turmoil-stricken country.

On Monday, a criminal court in Upper Egypt sentenced some 529 people suspected of being “Muslim Brotherhood loyalists” to death over charges of assaulting police stations last year. Earlier the security forces violently dispersed two major pro-Morsi sit-ins, which left about 1,000 people dead and lead to the arrest of thousands more.

On Tuesday 14 Egyptian human rights organizations issued a joint statement condemning the verdict as “dangerous and unprecedented transformation of the Egyptian judiciary and massive violation of the rights to fair trial and to life.”

“It took only three days for the court to decide to execute over 500 humans, raising questions about human rights in general and justice in particular, which is one of the most important pillars of the state,” said Mohamed Zarie, a lawyer and also a human rights activist.

Zarie argued that such a verdict might shake people’s faith in Egypt’s judiciary, adding that the defense team was not given a chance to defend their clients. He said all defendants deserve a fair trial regardless of whether they are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The verdict comes while Egypt’s security is launching a massive crackdown on Morsi supporters, particularly the recently- blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group, who have been staging anti- government protests since Morsi’s removal by the military in last July.

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Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo, in this May 22, 2013 file picture. REUTERS-Stringer-Files

Egypt’s military strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

“It is catastrophic if the judiciary gets involved in political disputes,” Zarie warned, noting that even the government of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by popular protests in 2011, did not neutralize or manipulate judiciary.

Zarie reassured that it is “impossible” to carry out the mass death verdict as it will be appealed for lacking proper procedures and legal bases.

“The issue is not whether it will be carried out or not but about a big mistake that must be avoided because it negatively affect the reputation of the Egyptian judiciary,” he lamented.

The UN human rights office said Tuesday that it is “deeply alarmed by the imposition of the death penalty against 529 people in Egypt on Monday after a cursory of mass trial.”

Also on Tuesday, the same criminal court in Minya province in south Egypt adjourned a mass trial of 683 pro-Morsi defendants who are accused of inciting violence and riots.

Although Mohamed Fayek, head of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, said he had full respect for the Egyptian judicial institution and its independency, he saw the mass death verdict was “very shocking and alarming.”

“I feel concerned especially because the verdicts come at a time when the council is working on limiting the crimes incurring death penalties in Egypt,” Fayek said.

With all due respect for the judiciary, it is “unacceptable” to issue death penalties against 529 people in this way, the human rights activist said, emphasizing the verdict is still subject to appeal.

The controversial mass death sentences come as Egypt is preparing the final phases of its post-Morsi transitional roadmap symbolized in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, following approval of the newly-drafted constitution.

Meanwhile some commentators believe that a dire human rights situation is exaggerated by the Western media to criticize Egypt and pressure the interim leadership.

Saeed Sadeq, professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo, said that media criticism of the government is “a foreign conspiracy carried out by local tools,” reflecting the sentiment of some Egyptians who see criticism of the interim government as supporting “terrorism.”

The professor said that the “pro-Brotherhood media” wanted to depict the issue as military fascism, a crackdown on protesters and violation of human rights, “while in fact it is a war against terrorism.”

“The verdict is still not final, but it is only a message,” Sadeq continued, “It has political and psychological goals, namely to intimidate assailants against the military, the police and the judiciary, which are the pillars of any state.”

However, Sadeq agreed with others that it is unlikely that the death sentences will be carried out, “because more than 350 of the defendants were not present and it is only meant to intimidate others.”

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Egypt puts Muslim Brotherhood leader, 682 others on trial

March 25, 2014

MINYA, Egypt Tue Mar 25, 2014 10:57am EDT

 
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant's cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie shouts slogans from the defendant’s cage during his trial with other leaders of the Brotherhood in a courtroom in Cairo December 11, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

MINYA, Egypt (Reuters) – The leader of Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 682 others went on trial on Tuesday on charges including murder, their lawyer said, a day after more than 500 supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi were sentenced to death.

Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, 70, and the others were being tried in the same court in Minya Province that condemned 529 members of the Islamist group to death, in what rights groups said was the biggest mass death sentence handed out in Egypt’s modern history.

Protests erupted after Tuesday’s trial began, with police firing teargas to deter hundreds of demonstrators.

The U.N. human rights office said the mass death sentences contravened international law. The European Union and the United States also criticised the ruling, as did rights groups.

“Yesterday was … a death sentence for the credibility and independence of Egypt’s criminal justice system,” said Nicholas Piachaud, a campaigner at Amnesty International.

“There is little hope of the 683 people indicted in this latest trial of receiving fair proceedings before the same judge who yesterday handed down death sentences so readily.”

Justice Ministry official Abdel Atheem al-Ashari defended the death sentences, saying in a statement in response to the ruling that the separation between the state and the judiciary is one of the main principles of any democratic system.

There are no signs that Western powers will back their dismay with action to push for greater democracy in Egypt, which is of strategic importance because of its peace treaty with Israel and contains the Suez Canal, a global shipping lane.

Egypt has cracked down hard on the Brotherhood since army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in July, and installed a government.

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Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo, in this May 22, 2013 file picture. REUTERS-Stringer-Files

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

In August, security forces killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters who staged a long sit-in to demand Mursi’s reinstatement. Thousands of others were arrested and top leaders, including Mursi himself, are also on trial.

Defence lawyers boycotted Tuesday’s court session – attended by 60 of the defendants – after complaining of irregularities. Reporters were barred from the courtroom.

“We refrained from attending … because the judge has violated criminal law procedures and did not allow the (lawyers) to present their defence,” Adel Ali, a member of the defence team, told Reuters.

He said those in the dock did not have an opportunity to defend themselves after their lawyers quit the proceedings.

Seventy-seven of the defendants were in custody while the rest had been released on bail or were on the run, he said. The verdicts are due on April 28.

FIRING TEARGAS

All the charges related to clashes in Minya, a bastion of Islamist support south of Cairo, that broke out after the security forces crushed the pro-Mursi camps in the capital. A policeman was killed during the protests.

The mass trials will ratchet up tensions and could trigger more violence in the biggest Arab state, which has been dogged by political upheaval since a popular uprising backed by the army toppled veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Hours after Tuesday’s trial began, protests broke out at Minya University. Police lobbed teargas canisters and fired in the air in an attempt to disperse hundreds of demonstrators.

In Egypt’s second city Alexandria, a Reuters witness said protesters who chanted against Sisi marched out of the main gate of a university and blocked a busy road. Some raised their hands to display the four-finger sign that has become a symbol of sympathy for the Brotherhood.

Security forces fired teargas, birdshot and live bullets in the air, while protesters threw stones.

“We’re coming out (to protest) today because the judiciary has become a tool in the hands of the military and the authorities,” said Mohamed Ashraf, student in the faculty of commerce. “This is evidence of a military coup in Egypt.”

An Islamist alliance which includes the Brotherhood has urged Egyptians to take to the streets in politically sensitive areas of Cairo to protest against the mass trials, despite severe restrictions having been imposed on demonstrations.

The sites include the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, scene of one of two pro-Mursi protest camps and Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt against Mubarak.

The Brotherhood, believed to number about 1 million in a population of 85 million and which has won most elections since Mubarak was ousted, has been declared a terrorist group by the government. It says it is committed to peaceful activism.

The government has blamed it and other Islamist groups for attacks on police and soldiers since Mursi was deposed.

Hundreds have been killed and the insurgency is spreading across the country, with shootings, suicide bombings and assassinations of senior Interior Ministry officials.

(Additional reporting by Asma Alsharif and Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Egypt’s judicial system has run amok — 529 Islamists condemned to death for the killing of a single police officer

March 25, 2014

Egypt’s judicial process has lost all legitimacy

By The Editorial Board
The New York Times

Egypt has been on an alarming downward spiral ever since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Even so, the court verdict on Monday that condemned 529 Islamists to death for the killing of a single police officer last summer was a uniquely shocking example of a judicial system run amok.

The verdict could well be overturned on appeal. Nevertheless, it represents an outrageous escalation of the military-led government’s ruthless crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist supporters of its ally, Mohamed Morsi. It will further radicalize the group’s members. And it will almost surely worsen instability in one of the Arab world’s most important countries.

There is no way that the proceeding can be seen as anything other than a show trial with a preordained political outcome. It was clearly intended to intimidate anyone who dares to challenge the military or shows sympathy for the Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi, who was elected president in 2012 in a democratic election and then ousted in a military coup last summer.

According to legal experts, the verdict was the largest mass sentencing in modern Egyptian history. It followed a trial that lasted little more than two days — not enough time to make a case against even a single person, much less 529 people, charged with murder for the killing of a police officer in rioting that followed Mr. Morsi’s ouster.

On the face of it, convicting so many people in one death is preposterous. The fact that 16 of those charged were acquitted does not legitimize the process in the least. Only 123 defendants were in the courtroom; the rest were either released, out on bail or on the run.

It is impossible to know whether the court in the city of Minya where the verdicts were handed down was caught up in the animosity against Mr. Morsi and his supporters that has swept Egypt since his overthrow or whether the court was acting on directions from security officials. Either way, the case lays bare a prejudicial system that has been quick to punish Mr. Morsi’s supporters while ignoring gross human rights violations by the military-led government that replaced him.

Among these violations were the shooting of more than 1,000 Egyptians who protested the coup, and the subsequent arrest of thousands more. These incidents, in turn, triggered a backlash by Morsi supporters against police around the country. The backlash included violent protests in Minya last year, including the killing of the police officer that led to the trial.

 

Governments, of course, have a duty to protect their citizens and bring criminals to justice. But this trial had all the makings of a vendetta, not a fair and rigorous judgment. Even if the verdict is overturned on appeal, as lawyers predict, the process is illegitimate and perpetuates the government’s transparent effort to crush the Brotherhood. Mr. Morsi’s mistakes, authoritarian ways and efforts to monopolize power now seem almost modest compared with the official brutality of his successors.

The verdict should also raise alarms about the fate of other prisoners, including several journalists for the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera, whose trial is underway in Cairo, as well as 600 other defendants, whose mass trial is set to begin on Tuesday. The possibility that all could be faced with death sentences, a barbaric and indefensible punishment, is chilling.

Inexplicably, the United States and Britain issued separate, similarly weak statements, which said that they were “deeply concerned” about the death sentences. That’s unlikely to have much effect on Egypt’s military and a population that largely seems willing to tolerate its abuses.

Egypt sentences 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death

March 24, 2014

© AFP

An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced 529 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi to death after a mass trial, lawyers said.

The decision by the court in the southern city of Minya signaled an escalation in the crackdown against Morsi’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement.

A large majority of those sentenced to death on Monday are fugitives, with just 153 in detention.

Those sentenced are among more than 1,200 Morsi supporters on trial in Minya. A second group of about 700 defendants will be in the dock on Tuesday.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Morsi have been the target of Egypt’s military-led government since his ousting in July, with hundreds of people killed and thousands arrested, according to international rights groups.

Those convicted on Monday are part of a group charged over the killing of a police officer in Minya, the attempted killing of two others, attacking a police station and other acts of violence.

The defendants were arrested in the wake of violent demonstrations after a brutal police crackdown on pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo on August 14.

They include several top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including its supreme guide Mohamed Badie. The government has declared the movement a terrorist group.

Sixteen suspects were acquitted, according to lawyers. The ruling can be appealed.

Morsi is himself on trial in three different cases, including one for inciting the killing of protesters outside a presidential palace while he was in power.

The former president was removed after just 12 months in office following mass street protests against his rule.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Egyptian riot policemen march towards Cairo University on March 19, 2014 as clashes break out during a protest by Muslim Brotherhood students (AFP, Khaled Desouki)

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Saudi Arabia Names Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group

March 7, 2014

Saudi Arabia criminalizes taking membership in, supporting and sympathizing  with terrorist groups. (Al Arabiya)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2014 (AP)

Saudi Arabia identified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group along with al-Qaida and others Friday, warning those who join them or support them they could face five to 30 years in prison.

A Saudi Interior Ministry statement said King Abdullah approved the findings of a committee entrusted with identifying extremist groups referred to in a royal decree earlier last month. The decree punishes those who fight in conflicts outside the kingdom or join extremist groups or support them.

The king’s decree followed the kingdom enacting a sweeping new counterterrorism law that targets virtually any criticism of the government.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been targeted by many Gulf nations since the July 3 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, himself a Brotherhood member. Saudi Arabia has banned Brotherhood books from the ongoing Riyadh book fair and withdrew its ambassador from Qatar, a Brotherhood supporter, along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Friday’s statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, identified the other terrorist groups named as al-Qaida’s branches in Yemen and Iraq, the Syrian al-Nusra Front, Saudi Hezbollah and Yemen’s Shiite Hawthis. It said the law would apply to all the groups and organizations identified by the United Nations Security Council or international bodies as terrorists or violent groups. It said the law also would be applied to any Saudi citizen or a foreigner residing in the kingdom for propagating atheism or pledging allegiance to anyone other than the kingdom’s leaders.

The counterterrorism law bans meetings of the groups inside or outside of the kingdom and covers comments made online or to media outlets.

The unprecedented and harsh prison terms seem aimed at stemming the flow of Saudi fighters going to Syria, Yemen or Iraq. The Syrian civil war is believed to have drawn hundreds of young Saudis, worrying some in the kingdom that fighters could return radicalized and turn their weapons on the monarchy.

Influential Saudi clerics who follow the kingdom’s ultraconservative religious Wahhabi doctrine encouraged youths to fight in the war and view it as a struggle between Syria’s Sunni majority and President Bashar Assad’s Alawite, Shiite-backed minority.

Saudi officials and some clerics have spoken out against young Saudis joining the war. However, the Saudi government backs some rebel opposition groups in Syria with weapons and aid.

The new law is also believed to reflect pressure from the U.S., which wants to see Assad’s overthrow but is alarmed by the rising influence of hard-line foreign jihadists — many of them linked to al-Qaida — among the rebels. U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia and meet King Abdullah this month.

Meanwhile in Qatar, outspoken Egyptian cleric Youssef el-Qaradawi did not deliver his usual sermon on Friday. The reasons for his absence were not made immediately public. His past sermons, in which he publicly criticized the UAE and other Gulf countries for their support of Egypt’s new government in its crackdown on the Brotherhood, led to outrage among Qatar’s neighbors who saw the comments as an attack on their sovereignty.

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Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Abdullah Ribhi in Doha, Qatar, contributed to this report.

In Egypt, journalists targeted often as anti-government terrorists

February 21, 2014

Reporters and relatives of three Al Jazeera English journalists waited at Tora prison in Cairo. Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By
The New York Times

CAIRO — The three men, wearing white prison scrubs in metal cages reserved for criminal suspects, listened to the list of explosive charges accusing them of aiding a plot to undermine Egypt’s national security.

They had links to terrorists, the prosecutors contended, and before their court appearance on Thursday, the men were detained for weeks among prisoners whom the government considers its most dangerous opponents. The charges could bring up to 15 years in prison.

But the three suspects are all seasoned journalists. Their crime was filing news reports for their employer, Al Jazeera English, before state security officers came to the hotel suite they used as a makeshift studio in December, ultimately rounding them up and throwing them in jail.

The charges against the men, branded the “the Marriott cell” by government-friendly news outlets, are the most serious against journalists here in recent memory, rights groups say, part of a widening crackdown by Egypt’s military-backed government that has ensnared scores of reporters, as well as filmmakers, bloggers and academics.

What began months ago with mass arrests and repression of the government’s opponents in the Muslim Brotherhood has steadily broadened into a campaign against perceived critics of all stripes. In all, thousands of people — mostly Islamists, but also some of the best-known activists from the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak — have been put in jail, many of them still awaiting trial.

At least 60 journalists have been detained since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi last July, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with nine of them still in custody, including a Yemeni blogger arrested after interviewing attendees at a book fair.

“This is a dangerous decision,” Peter Greste, one of the journalists from Al Jazeera English, wrote about his arrest in a letter from prison. “It validates an attack not just on me and my two colleagues, but on freedom of speech across Egypt.”

Beyond Mr. Greste and his two colleagues from Al Jazeera English — Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed — 17 other people are charged in the same case, including several students who appeared in court on Thursday as well. The allegations include possessing materials promoting a terrorist organization — presumably, the banned Brotherhood — and broadcasting images that the government says distorted Egypt’s image by suggesting that “the country is undergoing a civil war.”

The trial reflects a particularly intense struggle between the Egyptian government and Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera. Egypt accuses Qatar of harboring Islamist leaders, including wanted men, and complains that the channel provides a platform for Egypt’s enemies.

The network’s Arabic language news service, like the Qatari government, strongly supports the Brotherhood, the Islamist group that had become Egypt’s governing party until the military takeover last summer. Afterward, Egyptian officials shuttered the station’s news bureaus and detained reporters and staff members. One of its journalists, Abdullah Elshamy, has been imprisoned since August and is on a hunger strike.

Journalists with the English-language service, which takes an independent editorial line, have continued to work in Egypt. When Mr. Fahmy joined the network just last September, he assured his family that the English channel was looked upon more favorably in Egypt.

Mr. Fahmy, an Egyptian and Canadian citizen, has worked for the some of the world’s biggest news organizations, including CNN, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, and was an author of a book on the uprising in his Egyptian homeland. The job at Al Jazeera English made him a bureau chief for the first time, and provided a dose of stability as he was preparing to get married after years of bouncing around on assignments, often in war zones like Iraq and Libya.

His co-defendant Mr. Mohamed comes from a family of Egyptian journalists and had worked as a freelance producer for Al Jazeera for about seven months, his brother Assem said. Mr. Greste, an Australian correspondent who had worked for the BBC and Reuters, did not even live in Egypt. He was based in Nairobi, Kenya, and had been filling in over the Christmas holiday in Cairo when security officers came for him and his colleagues.

A video leaked to an Egyptian news channel after their arrest showed officers interrogating Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Greste, who both looked bewildered. Mr. Mohamed was arrested later that night. During the raid on his house, officers shot Gatsby, the family dog, his brother said.

When pressed about their handling of the news media, some Egyptian officials said it was not so different from the Obama administration’s crackdown on leakers in national security cases. And in Al Jazeera English’s case, they have repeatedly emphasized that the men were working without press credentials in Egypt, a point their employer has conceded.

“We were wrong,” said Heather Allan, the head of news gathering for the channel, who attended the trial on Thursday. But officials had also told her that the channel was not banned, she said. “We were not operating clandestinely,” she added.

The official explanations shed little light on why a Dutch journalist who did not work for Al Jazeera was named as a suspect in the case, and forced to flee Egypt: Her crime, it appeared, was meeting with Mr. Fahmy. And the relatively simple matter of credentials did not seem to explain the treatment the Al Jazeera English journalists received after their arrests, which they detailed in harrowing letters and messages from prison.

In the first weeks, Mr. Greste was treated the most kindly, allowed an exercise session after being “locked in my cell 24 hours a day for the past 10 days, allowed out only for visits to the prosecutor for questioning.”

Around him, at Tora prison in Cairo, “authorities routinely violate legally enshrined prisoners’ rights, denying visits from lawyers, keeping cells locked 20 hours a day,” he wrote. “But even that is relatively benign compared to the conditions my colleagues are being held in.”

Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Mohamed were sent to a wing known as Scorpion, where their neighbors were Islamist political detainees and hardened jihadists.

In a message to his family, Mr. Fahmy described a cell “infested with insects, freezing cold, with access to little food and no sunlight at all.” Privileges — like a blanket — were granted and then snatched away. An arm broken before his arrest was left untreated and grew worse, he said.

He and Mr. Mohamed relied on work to preserve their sanity, hosting evening discussions with other prisoners through the grates of their cells. They called it the “Scorpion Live Talk Show.”

The three colleagues were eventually moved together to a less secure wing, and placed in the same cell, with improved conditions. In court on Thursday, they appeared buoyed by the attendance of more than two dozen diplomats and journalists.

Mr. Fahmy translated the proceedings, which were in Arabic, for Mr. Greste, who was not provided with an interpreter. During breaks, the journalists shouted answers to questions from their colleagues in the gallery, struggling to put on a brave face. They spent 23 hours a day in their shared cell, they said, with no access to news or reading materials. Their next court date is set for early March.

From the cage, they asked journalists to pass on greetings to absent relatives: to Mr. Greste’s parents, and Mr. Mohamed’s wife, who is pregnant and whom he begged to “take care.” Mr. Fahmy smiled and asked that word be sent to his fiancée, who was barred from the courtroom, to prepare for a “big wedding” when he got out.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on February 21, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Extending Crackdown, Egypt Accuses Journalists of a Plot.

Lawyers for deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi walk out of his trial on Sunday — Court Rescheduled for February 23

February 16, 2014

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The BBC

Sally Nabil reports from Cairo, where she says the lawyers walked out in protest at the glass dock

Lawyers for deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have walked out of his trial on charges of espionage and conspiring to commit acts of terror.

The trial has now been adjourned until 23 February.

The lawyers withdrew in protest at Mr Morsi and other defendants being confined in a soundproofed glass cage.

The Islamist former leader is facing four separate trials, three of which have now opened.

Mr Morsi was brought to Cairo’s police academy on Sunday morning by helicopter from the Burj al-Arab prison where he is being held.

In this trial, he and 35 others are accused of working with Lebanese and Palestinian groups to carry out attacks in Egypt.

Mr Morsi has been put in the soundproof cage in recent appearances to prevent him shouting and disrupting proceedings.

The defendants have said they cannot follow proceedings because of the cage, but the judge insisted that headphones installed inside the dock will allow them to listen.

The cage allows the judge to control when the defendants are heard.

At one point when he was audible, Mr Morsi said: “What are you so afraid of? Are you afraid because you have no public support?” Reuters reports.

The court said it would appoint a new defence team.

An Egyptian riot policeman stands guard on the top of an armoured vehicle outside the Police Academy .
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Security was tight outside the police academy where the trial was taking place
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A pro-military Egyptian holds a poster behind barbed wires
Pro-military protesters had assembled, some demanding Mr Morsi’s execution

Morsi defiant

Mr Morsi was ousted by the military last July following mass street protests against his rule.

Since Mr Morsi was ousted there has been a severe crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as on other activists seen as hostile to the military-backed government.

The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organisation and authorities have punished any public show of support for it.

Other senior Brotherhood figures, including supreme guide Mohammed Badie and his deputy and former presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater, are also facing a raft of charges,

At least 1,000 people have died in clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters since he was deposed, with thousands more arrested.

In this latest trial, Mr Morsi is accused of collaborating with the Palestinian movement Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. If convicted he could receive the death penalty.

Continue reading the main story

Four trials of Mohammed Morsi

  • Incitement of supporters to commit violence and murder during break-up of December 2012 protest
  • Conspiring with foreign organisations (Hamas and Hezbollah) to commit terrorist acts
  • Murder of prison officers in jailbreak during 2011 uprising against President Mubarak
  • Insulting the judiciary

Proceedings in two other trials have already begun:

  • The first opened in November on charges of inciting the killing of protesters near the presidential palace when he was in office in 2012.
  • In January another trial opened concerning his escape from prison in a jailbreak in 2011, during which police officers were killed.
  • The fourth trial will be on charges of insulting the judiciary.

Mr Morsi’s supporters say he and other senior Brotherhood leaders are the victims of politically motivated prosecutions.

In his previous court appearances Mr Morsi has struck a defiant tone, refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the court and insisting that he is still the rightful president.

During that court appearance, from inside a glassed-in defendants’ cage, he shouted: “I am the president of the republic. How can I be kept in a dump for weeks?”

Also on Sunday, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper reported that Lt Gen Sami Enan, former chief of staff of the armed forces, will run in the upcoming presidential elections.

Many are expecting Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who led the army action that deposed Mr Morsi and has since been seen as being effectively in control of the country, to announce his own presidential bid.

Egypt’s Former President Mohamed Mursi in Court in Cairo for Conspiring with Foreign Groups to Commit Terrorist Acts in Egypt

February 16, 2014

By Michael Georgy

CAIRO          Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:09am EST

A supporter of Egypt's army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rallies outside a police academy, where the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo, February 16, 2014. REUTERS-Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A supporter of Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rallies outside a police academy, where the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo, February 16, 2014.   Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO (Reuters) – Deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi appeared in court on Sunday on charges of conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, in a further escalation of the crackdown against his Muslim Brotherhood.

Declaring it “the biggest case of conspiracy in the history of Egypt“, prosecutors have detailed a “terrorist plan” dating back to 2005 and implicating Palestinian group Hamas and the Shi’ite Islamist government of Iran as well as its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood propelled him to victory in the 2012 presidential election but has been driven underground since the army took power in July after mass protests against his rule.

The state, which has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group, has killed about 1,000 of its members on the streets and jailed thousands of others, including top leaders.

Egypt’s Western allies have exerted little pressure on the Cairo government to end what critics say are widespread human rights violations.

Mursi is on trial in three cases and charged in two others.

Riot police stand guard outside the police academy, where the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo February 16, 2014. REUTERS-Amr Abdallah Dalsh

In the latest one, the prosecutor also charged Brotherhood leaders Mohamed Badie, Khairat El-Shater, Mahmoud Ezzat and others with crimes including committing acts of terrorism in Egypt and divulging military secrets to a foreign state.

A total of 36 people are on trial.

The Brotherhood accuses the army of staging a coup and reviving a dictatorship, an allegation the military denies.

The prosecutor said the Brotherhood’s plan was to send “elements” to the Gaza Strip for military training by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Upon their return to Egypt, they would join forces with extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian-controlled territory that borders Israel to the east, it said.

After the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the group exploited the chaos to carry out attacks on security forces in North Sinai and elsewhere, it said.

The prosecutor said they aimed to establish an “Islamic emirate” in North Sinai were Mursi not declared president.

Mursi’s presidential aides including Essam El-Haddad, his national security adviser, had leaked secret reports to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah as a reward for their cooperation, the prosecutor said.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has dismissed the charges as “fabrications and lies”.

After crushing the Muslim Brotherhood at home, Egypt’s military rulers plan to undermine the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the neighboring Gaza Strip, senior Egyptian security officials have told Reuters.

The aim, which the officials say could take years to pull off, includes working with Hamas’s political rivals Fatah and supporting popular anti-Hamas activities in Gaza, four security and diplomatic officials said.

Egyptian security officials see Hamas as a major threat, accusing it of supporting militant groups in the Sinai peninsula which are waging an insurgency. Hamas denies the allegations.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

A riot police stands guard outside a police academy, where the trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo, February 16, 2014. REUTERS-Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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Egyptian former president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo court on charges of espionage and carrying out ‘terror attacks’

A Egyptian holds a poster behind barbed wires

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A Egyptian holds a poster behind barbed wires outside the Police Academy in Cairo where the Morsi trial is due to take place Photo: AFP/GETTY

By AFP

10:34AM GMT 16 Feb 2014

Deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was on Sunday facing charges of   espionage and carrying out “terror attacks” in Egypt, as a third   trial against him was due to get under way.

The latest court case is part of a relentless government crackdown targeting   Morsi and his Islamist supporters since he was ousted by the military on   July 3.

Mohammed Morsi speaks from inside a mesh cage in a previous appearance   (AP)

Morsi and 35 others, including former aides and leaders of his Muslim   Brotherhood, are accused “of spying for the international organisation   of the Muslim Brotherhood, its military wing and the (Palestinian) Hamas   movement”.

They are also charged with “carrying out terror attacks inside the   country against state property, institutions and their employees to spread   chaos”.

If found guilty, the defendants could face the death penalty.

Morsi, who was ousted by the military after a single year of turbulent rule,   is already on trial for his alleged involvement in the killing of opposition   protesters in December 2012.

Along with 130 others, including dozens of members of Hamas and Lebanon’s   Shiite militant movement Hizbollah, Morsi is separately being tried on   charges linked to a jailbreak during the 2011 uprising that toppled   strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The ousted leader is also to be tried separately for “insulting the   judiciary”. A date for that has yet to be set.

An Egyptian riot policeman stands guard in Cairo (AFP/GETTY)

During Morsi’s short-lived presidency, ties between Cairo and Hamas, a   Palestinian affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood which rules the neighbouring   Gaza strip, had flourished.

But since July, Egypt’s military-installed government has accused Hamas of   backing Morsi and his Brotherhood and carrying out terrorist attacks inside   Egypt.

The army has destroyed several hundred tunnels used to ferry crucial supplies,   including fuel, into the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Since Morsi’s ouster, his supporters have faced a relentless crackdown by   Egypt’s government that has left more than 1,400 people dead according to   Amnesty International, and seen thousands more arrested.

Edited by Barney Henderson

Egypt has become a “republic of fear”

February 9, 2014

By Yasmine Saleh and Tom Perry

CAIRO          Sun Feb 9, 2014 11:58am EST

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh talks during an interview with Reuters, Cairo June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh talks during an interview with Reuters, Cairo June 26, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Stringer

CAIRO (Reuters) – A moderate Islamist who came fourth in Egypt’s 2012 presidential election won by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, accused the army-backed authorities on Sunday of creating a “republic of fear”.

Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, 62, one of the few Islamists left in public life after a crackdown on the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies after Mursi was ousted by the army, said Egypt was not on a path to democracy as the government says.

“Our conscience does not let us participate in an operation to deceive the Egyptian people and act like there are elections when there are not,” Abol Fotouh said, confirming his decision not to run for president this year.

Although he has not yet confirmed he will run, army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win after the army said it would back him. He has wide support among many Egyptians who were relieved to see an end to Mursi’s rule, but is reviled by Mursi sympathisers as the leader of a coup.

Sisi deposed Mursi on July 3 after mass protests against his rule. Supporters of Mursi’s removal say it was a revolution.

“This is a republic of fear,” Abol Fotouh told a news conference convened to declare his final decision on whether he would run in the election that could happen as soon as April.

BROKEN THE FEAR

Popular leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election, on Saturday became the first politician to clearly state he would run.

The government says it has charted a course to democracy after Mursi’s overthrow. Abol Fotouh said: “There is no democratic path in Egypt”.

Abol Fotouh pointed to what he said were 21,000 jailed activists and said a hotel manager had turned down a request to host Sunday’s news conference not because of instructions from the authorities but because of his own fears.

“Any Egyptian who wants to express his opinion is afraid that he will be harmed, detained, that his house will be stormed, or a case against him will be fabricated, or it will be said that ‘you are insulting the judiciary’,” he said.

Abol Fotouh was a senior member of the Brotherhood until 2011, when the movement expelled him after he decided to stage an independent bid for the presidency.

A doctor who was jailed under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, Abol Fotouh was fiercely critical of Mursi during his one-year presidency and called for early presidential elections before the army’s decision to remove him on July 3.

Activists from Abol Fotouh’s Strong Egypt party were detained while campaigning against a new constitution approved in a referendum in January.

“Egyptians will not live in this republic of fear after January 25,” he said, referring to the 2011 uprising that led to Mubarak’s downfall. “The nations that have broken the fear barrier will not again surrender (to it),” he said.

(Editing by Michael Georgy and Robin Pomeroy)

Violence risks turning Egypt into jihadi front

February 7, 2014

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Associated Press

By Lee Keath

CAIRO (AP) – An Islamic militant group that has waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations for months in Egypt has quickly advanced in weaponry and sophistication of attacks, drawing on the experience of Egyptians who fought in Syria’s civil war.

The increasing capabilities of the group, called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Arabic for the Champions of Jerusalem, raises the danger that a wave of violence that began as a retaliation for the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi is evolving into a new front for regional jihadi groups.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis first arose in the Sinai Peninsula, where for years militant groups largely made of up local Bedouin had carried out attacks, lobbing rockets into neighboring Israel and at times opening fire on military and police. Attacks escalated after the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, when militants turned their guns more directly against Egyptian soldiers and police.

An Egyptian soldier takes position on a military armored vehicle in front of Omar Makram Mosque near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. The militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations for months in Egypt, has quickly advanced in weaponry and sophistication of attacks, drawing on the experience of Egyptians who fought in Syria. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

But after the July 3 coup removing Morsi, militants dramatically stepped up their campaign, and it has since spread to cities of the Nile Delta and the capital, Cairo. In recent weeks, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri took up the cause in a recent message urging Egyptians to join the fight against the man who removed Morsi, army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. One of al-Qaida’s strongest branches, based in Yemen, praised “our mujahedeen brothers in Sinai.”

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis “has rapidly become one of the most active jihadist groups in the world,” the U.S.-based intelligence assessment group Stratfor warned in report last week.

It said the string of messages suggested the group is getting “outside help,” possibly from the Yemen branch, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a former al-Qaida branch fighting in both Iraq and Syria. In a recording last month, the leader of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis Abu Osama al-Masri saluted the Islamic State, a sign of its influence with his group.

The group is also benefiting from Egyptian militants returning from fronts of jihad, or holy war, elsewhere around the region. After a failed attempt to assassinate Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in Cairo in September, the group identified the suicide bomber as Walid Badr, a former Egyptian army major who it said had fought in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and later in Syria’s civil war. In a separate statement, it said another militant, Saeed el-Shahat, an Egyptian who also fought in Syria, blew himself up when police raided his apartment in January.

Further alarm was raised over Ansar Beit al-Maqdis’ capabilities when it downed a military helicopter in Sinai in late January, killing all five crewmembers. Based on a video by the group purporting to show the attack, the fighters used a shoulder-fired missile from the Russian-made Igla series, which is more advanced than weapons systems previously seen among militant groups, the London-based military analysis group Jane’s Defense Weekly reported.

Last week, militants assassinated a senior interior ministry aide with a single shot through the neck as he sat in his car, security officials said, a sign of an experienced sniper. Days earlier, they set up a powerful truck bomb outside Cairo’s main security directorate, timed during a change in shifts, killing five people in the center of the capital. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Egyptian policemen stand guard at the scene of a powerful explosion believed to be a car bomb at a police headquarters building that killed at least a dozen people, wounded more than 100, and left scores buried under the rubble, in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Cairo, Egypt. The militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations for months in Egypt, has quickly advanced in weaponry and sophistication of attacks, drawing on the experience of Egyptians who fought in Syria. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ashraf, File)

The growth in the group’s campaign adds a further layer of turmoil as security forces wage a fierce crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies, which have continued protests demanding his reinstatement. Police assaults on protests have killed hundreds of Morsi supporters and thousands more have been arrested, including Morsi and most of the Brotherhood’s leadership, who now face a series of trials.

The government alleges the Brotherhood has been behind the militant campaign from the start, accusing its leaders of working with militants to launch the insurgency. In December, it declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood, which officially renounced violence in the 1970s, denies the accusation and calls it a pretext to wipe out the government’s top political rival, which won a string of elections after Mubarak’s fall.

Egypt’s security agencies say they have amassed evidence of the Brotherhood’s role. But so far it has largely not been made public or been put through judicial scrutiny. Instead, their purported evidence has come out in a flow of leaks to the Egyptian press by anonymous officials – making its veracity impossible to assess independently.

In December, for example, officials in the prosecutors’ office leaked to the Egyptian press the purported confessions of Mohammed el-Zawahri, the brother of al-Qaida’s leader who is himself a prominent figure in extremist circles and was a strong supporter of Morsi’s presidency. He was arrested soon after Morsi’s ouster.

According to the leaks, he told interrogators that the Brotherhood’s deputy leader Khairat el-Shater gave him millions of dollars to buy weapons from Libya for Sinai militants and demanded they attack the military and government institutions.

Officials also have spoken of recorded telephone calls between Brotherhood leaders and militants. They claim the Brotherhood had access to police files during Morsi’s presidency and passed information to militants, helping them assassinate security officials. Among them was a top Interior Ministry official in charge of investigating the Brotherhood who was gunned down outside his home late last year.

During Morsi’s presidency, he formed a political alliance with radicals, including former members of militant groups that fought a bloody insurgency against the government in the 1990s. Also while president, Morsi sent ultraconservative Islamist envoys to negotiate with Sinai militants to stop attacks in return for a halt to military operations against them. Morsi’s allies represented the contacts as aimed at finding a peaceful solution to Sinai violence, but security agencies allege the contacts built the alliance with jihadis.

In the days just before the coup and in the weeks after, some of the top leaders of past militant movements appeared on the stage of the main pro-Morsi protest camp in Cairo, outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque. Among them were Rifai Taha, who was once allied to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and two brothers, Tareq and Abboud el-Zomor, who spent years in prison for masterminding the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

One former militant leader, Assem Abdel-Maged, openly threatened violence against Morsi’s opponents from the stage at Rabaah, telling the crowd, “We will have to press the knife now.”

Regardless of the truth of the government accusations, experts warn that the crackdown is pushing Islamists into militant violence and creating a pool of potential recruits for Islamic militant groups.

Aside from the well-planned attacks claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, there have been frequent less sophisticated bombings, including explosives planted outside police stations or on roadsides targeting police patrols.

Last week, a new group calling itself Ajnad Misr, Arabic for Egypt’s Soldiers, claimed responsibility for several such bombings, including one on Jan. 24 that hit police just as they returned from clashes with Morsi supporters. To experts, that suggests the group is drawing recruits from the ranks of Islamist protesters.

“The emergence of Ajnad Misr testifies to how a large number of Islamists who had been adopting peaceful means are now resorting to violence since there is no use to peaceful protest,” said Ismail Alexandrani, an Egyptian expert in Islamic militancy.

AP correspondent Maggie Michael contributed to this report.

FILE - In this file photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, an Egyptian policeman guards the scene of an explosion at a police headquarters building that

FILE – In this file photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, an Egyptian policeman guards the scene of an explosion at a police headquarters building that killed at least a dozen people, wounded more than 100, and left scores buried under the rubble, in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Cairo, Egypt. The militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations for months in Egypt, has quickly advanced in weaponry and sophistication of attacks, drawing on the experience of Egyptians who fought in Syria.  ((AP Photo/Ahmed Ashraf, File))
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