Egypt ex-president Morsi tells trial: 'I am president'

Egyptian television showed footage of Mohammed Morsi arriving at court

Egypt's ousted leader Mohammed Morsi has gone on trial in Cairo, telling the judge the case is illegitimate as he remains president.

He and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood figures face charges of inciting the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in 2012.

After Mr Morsi's remarks and his refusal to wear a uniform, the judge adjourned the trial until 8 January.

He was then flown to Burj al-Arab prison in Alexandria.

Security officials told the BBC Mr Morsi was transferred after registration to the prison hospital for a routine medical check.

He is awaiting a medical report which will determine whether he will be sent to a cell or kept at the hospital, they added.

Earlier reports had suggested that he would be taken to Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo. Until now he had been held at a secret military location.

Protests took place outside the court and elsewhere in Cairo.

In court

Burj al-Arab jail, where Mr Morsi is now behind bars, is one of Egypt's most formidable prisons. It is in a remote location in the desert, on the edge of Alexandria.

He was probably taken there for security reasons - the large compound is heavily fortified. Although the deposed president's supporters have called for protests to be held outside, assembly will be difficult. Public transport does not reach the site.

By contrast, Tora Prison in the Maadi area of Cairo, is relatively accessible. It is being used to detain other Muslim Brotherhood leaders facing trial, and Egypt's other ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, has previously been detained there alongside his two sons.

It is understood that no contact is allowed between the Tora inmates. However, the decision to keep Mr Morsi away from his colleagues reduces the possibility of even messages being passed between them.

Mr Morsi was ousted by the military in July after protests against his rule.

Early on Monday Mr Morsi was brought into the sprawling Police Academy compound by helicopter. Other defendants, including Essam el-Erian, Mohammed al-Beltagi and Ahmed Abdel Aatie, were said to have arrived in armoured personnel carriers.

No television pictures were broadcast from the court although journalists were allowed in for the former president's first public appearance since he was deposed on 3 July.

As he entered the courtroom, Mr Morsi refused to remove his blue suit and put on the required white prison uniform. The defendants, who were being held in a cage in the courtroom, chanted "illegal, illegal".

When asked to give his name, the former president gave a defiant response, according to reporters inside the court.

What is the 'four-finger salute'?

Pro-Morsi supporter gesturing with four-finger salute (04/11/13)
  • Symbol used by supporters of Mohammed Morsi
  • Named after Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, where hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed in August
  • "Rabaa" means "four" in Arabic
  • Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the gesture on 17 August to signal condemnation of the crackdown on Morsi supporters
  • Later that day, top Turkish footballer Emre Belozoglu also used the Rabaa gesture as a victory sign after scoring a goal. He was criticised for politicising the game
  • Anti-Morsi groups have used distorted versions of the gesture with offensive intent

"I am Dr Mohammed Morsi, the president of the republic. I am Egypt's legitimate president. You have no right to conduct a trial into presidential matters."

The judge twice temporarily halted proceedings before adjourning the case until January.

Before the trial began Mr el-Erian, a deputy leader of the Brotherhood's political wing, told the BBC that one of his fellow defendants had been mistreated with some kind of water torture and had been beaten until he was on the point of collapse.

Mr Morsi and the 14 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been widely expected to use the occasion to underline what they see as the illegitimacy of his removal from power.

Police had to step in at one point because of heckling in the court. The BBC's Orla Guerin says some of those attending the trial, including women journalists, shouted that the defendants should be given the death penalty.

The trial had been due to take place at Tora prison on the other side of Cairo but had been switched late on Sunday, apparently to deter protesters.

Shortly after Mr Morsi's arrival, a small crowd arrived and began chanting outside the police compound more than one hour's drive from the centre of the city.

The crowd soon grew and protesters were briefly seen on state TV chanting slogans against army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Mr Morsi's removal from power. Demonstrators shouted at a state TV crew and chanted "liars" before chasing them and pelting them with stones.

The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil: "These protesters still see Morsi as their legitimate president"

Other protests took place in Cairo itself, outside the High Court in the centre of the city and at the Supreme Constitutional Court in the south.

While state institutions were said to have opened normally on Monday, some private schools had told parents to keep their children at home.

Defendants on trial

  • Mohammed Morsi - deposed Egyptian president
  • Mohammed al-Beltagi - Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) secretary-general
  • Ahmed Abdel Aati - head of Morsi's presidential office
  • Assaad Sheikh - deputy chief of presidential staff
  • Ayman Hodhod - adviser to Morsi
  • Essam el-Erian - deputy head of the FJP
  • Wagdi Ghonim - FJP cleric
  • Alaa Hamza - Muslim Brotherhood member
  • Abdel Rahman Ezz - Muslim Brotherhood member
  • Ahmed al-Mogheer - Muslim Brotherhood member
  • Gamal Saber - Salafist leader
  • Four unnamed individuals

Source: Cairo Court of Appeals and the Public Prosecutor

'Murder and violence'

Although Mr Morsi won the presidency in a democratic election, during his 13 months in power he fell out with key institutions.

The ex-president is accused of "inciting his supporters to carry out premeditated murder, and inciting the use of violence and thuggery" over the deaths of at least 10 people during intense clashes in December 2012 which followed a decree that gave him wide-ranging powers.

After he was ousted, a sit-in protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo by Mr Morsi's supporters was violently broken up by the military, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The interim government has also cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, banning the Islamist organisation and arresting dozens of senior figures.

Pro-Morsi supporters say he was removed in a coup and is now facing a politicised trial. Human rights groups accuse the security services of acting without accountability.

Legal experts say that if convicted Mr Morsi could be jailed for life or face the death penalty.

His senior communications adviser, Wael Haddara, told the BBC that the process was a "charade" because everyone involved had been appointed by the military.

"What is the military afraid of? Why won't they let him speak? Even prisoners have rights."

The National Police Academy is also hosting the trial of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, - meaning there are two former Egyptian presidents being tried concurrently.

An estimated 20,000 security personnel have been deployed to keep order amid fears that the trial could deepen the rift between Egyptians and cause greater unrest.

On Sunday evening, gunmen killed two Egyptian policemen near the city of Ismailia.

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