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Trial of ex-Egyptian President Morsi on prison escape postponed

Jan. 28, 2014 at 10:53 AM   |   Comments

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CAIRO, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on charges of collaborating with Hamas and Hezbollah to escape from prison adjourned until February.

The ousted president told the court Tuesday he was a political prisoner, not a detainee, Ahram Online reported.

"I am the legitimate president of the country," he said, "and this trial is not legal."

Other defendants chanted, "Down with military rule."

Morsi also shouted at the judge, asking, "Who are you?"

"I'm the head of the Criminal Court," the judge replied.

Morsi and his 21 co-defendants spent the Tuesday court session at the Police Academy behind a soundproof glass enclosure, although Morsi was only behind bars when he first entered the courtroom, Ahram Online said.

In a surprise move, Morsi named Islamist thinker Mohamed Selim el-Awa as his defense attorney, representing him at this trial and in three other criminal cases. In a separate trial, Morsi wouldn't appoint a lawyer, saying he did not recognize the court's authority, Ahram Online said.

The charges in Tuesday's hearing are linked to the escape of more than 20,000 inmates from three Egyptian prisons during the early days of the 2011 popular revolt that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Prosecutors said defendants face charges of damaging and setting fire to prison buildings, murder, and attempting to murder several people and looting prison weapons depots while allowing prisoners from the "Hamas movement, Lebanon's Hezbollah, Jihadists, Brotherhood [members] and other criminals" to escape.

Prosecutors have accused Morsi and 130 co-defendants -- the majority at large and being tried in absentia -- of waging a campaign "to bring down the Egyptian state and its institutions."

Prosecutors said more than 800 fighters from Gaza sneaked into Egypt and used heavy weapons and grenade launchers when they stormed the prisons, kidnapped four police officers and killed several police officials and inmates.

Morsi is separately accused of killing protesters and colluding with Hamas and Hezbollah to wage a terrorism campaign in Egypt.

The trial date marked the third anniversary of the prison break that occurred during the 18-day uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Ahram Online said supporters of army Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tried to block defense attorneys from entering the building and heckled them.

Defendants include senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, Essam el-Erian, Mohamed el-Beltagy, and pro-Brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazy. Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed before his election and has been banned again since his ouster in July following huge protests against his one-year rule.

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