Egyptians split over trial for former president Morsi

By Yolande Knell & Wael Hussein
BBC News, Cairo

image captionNasr City was the site of the main pro-Morsi sit-in after the president was forced from power

After Egypt's military removed President Mohammed Morsi from office on 3 July in response to mass demonstrations, his supporters gathered in the Cairo district of Nasr City.

The sit-in outside al-Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque lasted for six weeks until it was broken up by the security forces with hundreds of deaths.

Now the largest crowds in this mainly residential suburb are to be found at the weekly car market. It brings thousands of Egyptians from a wide cross-section of society to buy and sell used vehicles.

With the drama of Mr Morsi's trial about to begin, the talk here is not just about mileage and prices, but what the coming days will bring.

Recently Islamist protests have continued in Cairo, Alexandria and other Egyptian cities.

Despite the arrest of many of its leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group to which the former president belongs, is said to be organising its forces for Monday.

image captionCairo's weekly car market attracts a large cross-section of Egyptian society

An interior designer from Cairo has come along to look at the cars, partly as a distraction.

Mohammed Nur, an Islamist, is furious that a democratically elected president was ousted and plans to join the next pro-Morsi demonstrations.

"First of all, this was a coup and our role is to reverse it no matter the cost. Two of my best friends were killed in clashes with the police and I say there is no going back after all this blood," he says.

"We will do our best to make sure that this trial does not take place, because President Morsi will not get fair treatment. I'm sure he's done nothing wrong."

Fair trial?

Yet many of the shoppers have a starkly different view and back the decision to try the Islamist leader. It is alleged he incited his supporters to kill protesters last year.

"Our judicial system is fair. Morsi has committed a lot of crimes and many people were killed under his reign. He deserves to be sentenced to death," says Heba Fathallah, a civil servant who is at the car sale with her family.

image captionEgyptians turned out to celebrate on 3 July after Mr Morsi was ousted

"I took to the streets of Alexandria on 30 June with my children and grandchildren. I was extremely happy that Morsi was ousted after just one year in office."

She also agrees with tough measures that the military-backed interim government, led by Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, has taken to ban the Muslim Brotherhood's activities and seize its assets.

"The Beblawi government has every right to start a fresh crackdown on the Brotherhood. They have ruined the country," she says.

"They want to bring Morsi back and that's over my dead body."

Continuing turmoil

There is a high expectation that the coming days will only exacerbate the deep rift among Egyptians, causing greater unrest and instability.

An elderly housewife from Giza, Gamalat Abd al-Basir, does not like to talk about politics much nowadays. "You are either Morsi's or Sisi's," she observes - referring to armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Like many Egyptians, she voted for Mr Morsi in the presidential election but was soon disappointed by his failure to tackle economic and social problems and his attempt to Islamise the state.

"Now I'm supporting General Sisi in all that he has done," Mrs Abd al-Basir says. "But I think that too many people from both sides have been killed."

"I know that what the Brotherhood has done is wrong but you cannot get rid of them this way. There should be a solution. They should be accommodated into the system."

A man in his thirties agrees. "My family is afraid if the Islamists are quashed they will go underground and carry out bombings at shopping malls and mosques," he says.

"There should be an opening for them. We should let them continue their charitable activities, help the poor and teach at mosques but not practise politics."

The engineer is selling his car because of the economic crisis.

Like many professional Egyptians, he now hopes to move overseas. He already applied for a work permit to Qatar, but was turned down.

"There will be more madness," he says, downcast. "Life in Egypt has become terrible."