leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie (R), gesture during an appearance at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 (Photo: AP)
The trial of 48 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures as well as the group's most senior leader Mohamed Badie, has been further adjourned by a Cairo criminal court to 15 February.
On Monday the court cited the difficulties in transporting the defendants to the courthouse in the northern Cairo district of Shubra as grounds for delaying the trial. The court had given the same reasons on Saturday, when it first adjourned the proceedings to Monday.
The defendants, among them high-ranking Brotherhood leaders such as Safwat Hegazy and Mohamed El-Beltagy, stand accused of blocking the rural highway in Qalioubiya governorate, just north of Shubra, during the political upheaval following Morsi's 3 July ouster.
Two were killed and 30 injured when the defendants allegedly began firing randomly in response to police attempts to disperse the blockade.
The defendants also face a number of other charges, including belonging to a terrorist organisation, destroying public and private property, possessing weapons and disrupting the general peace.
Last December the Brotherhood was deemed a terrorist organisation after a bomb blast at a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. The attack was claimed by Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, an Al-Qaeda affiliated militant group, but Egypt's interim authorities have insisted that the two groups are linked.
Among the 48 defendants, 12 belong to the Brotherhood, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.
One defendant, a minor accused of blocking the highway, was released by the court.
Monday's trial saw the defendants continue the Islamic group's prolonged campaign of defiance against what it has called a coup, with Hegazy and El-Beltagy chanting anti-military slogans and Badie flashing the four-fingered Rabaa sign, the symbol of an east Cairo pro-Morsi sit-in that was violently dispersed by security forces in August.
Ahram Online's reporter at the courthouse in Shubra said that El-Beltagy shouted out in court to demand an immediate investigation into the death of his daughter, Asmaa, 17, who died in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya crackdown, as well as an inquiry on the violence and torture he has been allegedly subjected to while in prison.
He then insisted that he and the other defendants have been imprisoned on political grounds that have been fabricated.
Badie, the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide in Egypt, also expressed his outrage that the prosecution has not yet investigated the death of his son, Ammar, 38, who died from birdshot wounds following clashes near Al-Fath Mosque in downtown Cairo on 16 August, two days after the Rabaa dispersal.
Meanwhile, lead defence lawyer Mohamed El-Domaty called for the case to be dismissed, arguing that ongoing political turmoil and media bias against the Brotherhood has conditioned the public to accept unfair rulings against the group's members.
However, the head of the court replied that the trial would be fair and that the judges would remain impartial in looking at all legal documents.
El-Damaty further requested that the court release all the defendants on the grounds that the charges had been brought by local prosecutors and not the prosecutor general, as required by law.
Badie, who was arrested on 20 August, is currently being held in southern Cairo's Torah Prison complex.
He, along with several prominent Brotherhood figures, faces separate charges of inciting the murder of protesters at the group's headquarters in the Cairo district of Moqattam last June.