Egypt's criminal court adjourns trial of Muslim Brotherhood leaders

Ahram Online, Monday 9 Dec 2013

Monday's opening session held at high-security prison outside of Cairo; Top Muslim Brotherhood leaders declare trial 'void,' promise to continue their 'path'

Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, along with leaders Essam El-Erian and Mohamed El-Beltagy
Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie (C), along with leaders Essam El-Erian (L) and Mohamed El-Beltagy (R) (Photo: Reuters - AP)

Giza's criminal court on Monday postponed the trial of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders to 11 February so that it can study the case and declare witnesses.

The group of defendants include some of the most high-ranking members of the Islamist group, such as Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Essam El-Erian and Mohamed El-Beltagy, all of whom stood for the trial's first session on Monday on charges of murder and inciting violence, in connection with armed clashes on 15 July which left five dead in Giza.

Among the 14 co-defendants in the case facing similar allegations are preacher Safwat Hegazy and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel-Maged, who is still at large.

The remaining defendants are accused of "terrorism, illegal assembly, murder, damaging private property and possession of weapons."

In Badie's first public appearance since his arrest in August, the defendant told the judge that he and his group "are the victims, not the accused." He declared that the ruling regime has "killed thousands" and will be held accountable for its crimes by God.

Addressing the courtroom from inside a metal cage, he said that all had seen "how the Egyptian people were killed and their bodies dragged away like trash."

Badie also called upon his supporters to pray for him.

The trial was halted in late October after the judge declared that the court had experienced "uneasiness" over the case and a new judiciary panel was then formed. None of the defendants attended the first hearing in October due to security reasons.

Monday's session took place in a courtroom housed within a high-security prison compound on the outskirts of Cairo, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

As soon as the defendants entered the metal cage, they raised their hands and made the four-fingered Rabaa sign, a symbolic gesture that has since become associated with Rabaah Al-Adaweya, the Islamist group's main protest camp that was forcefully disbanded by the military in mid-August.

While the judge repeatedly asked El-Beltagy not to make the Rabaa sign on grounds that it would "disrupt the session," El-Beltagy continued to repeat, "This is void, the decision of referral is void, the trial is void."

From within the cage, Hegazi yelled, "Free revolutionaries, we're going to resume the path."

El-Beltagy interrupted the judge, saying, "Give me a couple of minutes and I'll prove the invalidity of this trial."

El-Beltagy referred to his daughter Asmaa, 17, who was killed during the sit-in's violent dispersal. Badie's son was also killed days later while taking part in protests in Ramses Square.

Speaking to the judge, El-Beltagy said, "You do not dare to charge those who killed my daughter and Badie's son."

On 11 December, Badie, along with his deputies Khairat El-Shater and Rashad Bayoumi, will appear in court over separate charges of inciting the murder of nine protesters who had stormed the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters on 30 June, as part of widespread demonstrations against the rule of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Interim authorities have cracked down on Islamists following Morsi's ouster in July. Thousands of Brotherhood-affiliated members have been detained, including the group's top leaders.

Morsi currently stands accused of inciting supporters to kill his group's political opponents during clashes in front of the presidential palace last December.

His trial is set to resume on 8 January.

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