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Protest calls, tight security planned for Egypt's Morsi trial

While a number of Morsi allies have called for mass protests on the day of the former president's trial, strict security has been planned for the day

Ahram Online, Sunday 3 Nov 2013
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (Photo: AP)
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The anticipated first trial of Egyptian ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Monday has prompted calls for mass protests, along with tight security measures, testing Egypt's ability to move forward with its 'roadmap to democracy.'

Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, along with 14 other group members, are due in court Monday on charges of incitement to murder and violence in the December 2012 Ittihadiya presidential palace clashes, which pitched Morsi opponents against his supporters.

Pro-Morsi protesters are accused of attacking and violently dispersing an anti-Morsi sit-in in front of the Ittihadiya palace on the morning of 4 December 2012.

Throughout the afternoon and into the following morning, pro- and anti-Morsi protesters clashed, resulting in the death of at least nine people, including four members of the Brotherhood and four anti-Brotherhood protesters.

In addition, hundreds were injured, including a number of anti-Morsi protesters who were filmed being tortured at the gates of the presidential palace by Brotherhood members. During the clashes, Brotherhood leaders called for popular mobilisation to protect what they saw as an attack against the elected president.

Monday's trial will be held at the Police Academy, on the outskirts of Cairo, in the same venue that staged the trial of Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

If found guilty, Morsi and his co-defendants could face lifetime imprisonment or the death penalty.

Tensions are running high across Egypt on the eve of Morsi's trial, which is expected to heighten conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim authorities, who have cracked down on Islamists since Morsi's ouster on 3 July.

Judicial sources told Ahram Online that some journalists and civil rights lawyers will not be admitted to the courtroom. Those allowed to witness the trial will not be allowed to take their cell phones, cameras or recording devices inside. The trial will also not be televised.

Morsi supporters called for mass protests in the week leading up to the trial, as well as rallies on the day in front of the Police Academy.

The Muslim Brotherhood described the trial as an attempt by the current regime to put Morsi "behind bars, and fill Egypt with corruption, looting and authoritarianism." 
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), a pro-Morsi coalition backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, described the trial as a "farce" on Sunday, decrying what they call "illegal" measures against the country's first freely elected president.

"The farcical, absurd trial the coup organisers are holding next Monday is nothing but a naive attempt to break our will and drain that of the resistant president," the Alliance announced in a Facebook Statement.

Morsi supporters accuse the army of staging a 'coup' against the elected president and reversing the democratic gains of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Mubarak.

The military says it was merely responding to the peoples' will after millions took to the streets to protest Morsi's one-year divisive rule.

"What is happening now is a flagrant breach of all standards, laws and norms," the NASL statement continued. It also lambasted the "disgraceful performance of the judiciary, which has become a tool in the hands of the military... used in a political conflict to crush rights and laws."

The NASL statement called on "all Egyptians" to protest Morsi's trial, stressing that demonstrations will remain peaceful and "stronger than the [police] bullets." 

Heavy security is expected nationwide on Monday. Some 20,000 police officers and soldiers will guard the trial.
'Normal day'
The Egyptian Cabinet announced Sunday that Monday will be a normal working day in all governmental institutions, schools and universities.

Egypt's Education Minister, Mahmoud Abu-Nasr, said state-owned schools won't be suspended. However, some international and private schools and universities have decided to suspend classes fearing escalation Monday.

Cabinet Spokesman Sherif Shawki told MENA that any attempt to sabotage or obstruct governmental institutions will be firmly dealt with, within the boundaries of the law.

Egypt's railway authority announced a state of emergency on Friday in anticipation of escalating Muslim Brotherhood protests ahead of the trial.

Railways operations only recently resumed after an almost two month suspension since the violent dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Giza's Nahda Square on 14 August, which left hundreds dead and thousands injured.

Railway authority head Hussein Zakaria stated that a special task force has been formed to combat protests and violence inside railway stations. Security has also been increased on trains and in stations. However, train schedules will remain as normal, Zakaria added.

The Ministry of Interior said, in a statement published on its official Facebook page on Saturday, it will stand against any assaults, abiding by "legal procedures regulating the use of firearms."

The Brotherhood has plans that aim to "spread chaos, obstruct state facilities and citizens' interests and hold up traffic," the ministry statement alleged.

The statement added that the ministry is "accurately monitoring" the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially its call for mass protests on Monday.

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