CAIRO - Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday urged supporters from a courtroom dock to continue their “revolution”, as a protest movement demanding his reinstatement shrinks before a fierce police crackdown.
The defiant call came during Morsi’s trial on charges related to jailbreaks and attacks on police, as a separate court acquitted six police officers of killing protesters during the 2011 uprising against his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood still stages diminishing weekly protests despite a crackdown that has killed more than 1,400 people since the military overthrew him in July, after just one year in office. “The revolution of the people won’t stop - continue your peaceful revolution,” said Morsi during the second hearing of the trial, one of three under way for the deposed leader.
Speaking from inside a glass cage, Morsi also insisted that he remains the “president” of Egypt. “I am present here by force,” he said. He also blamed Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who led his overthrow and who is expected to stand in and win presidential elections this spring, for the bloodshed across Egypt. “The head of the coup, the defence minister, has killed more than 3,000 people in the streets. He is the one who killed them and it was not investigated, but he will be held accountable,” said Morsi.
Defence lawyer Kamal Mandour demanded that Sisi be investigated for “toppling the regime” of Morsi and for detaining him. Another defence lawyer, Mohamed Abu Leila, asked the panel of judges to withdraw from the trial.
Morsi and 130 other defendants including Palestinian and Lebanese militants are charged with organising jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 revolt against Mubarak.
The defendants chanted “Down with the military” and flashed the four-finger salute associated with a pro-Morsi protest camp in which hundreds were killed in a police operation last August. The trial was adjourned to February 24.
Since his ouster, Morsi and the Brotherhood have been retroactively accused of committing much of the violence during the anti-Mubarak uprising.
Nearly 850 people died during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, most of them on January 28, 2011, when protesters battled the then-despised police.
Many of those who died were killed outside police stations when protesters attacked what they saw as symbols of Mubarak’s autocratic rule.
More than a dozen policemen were put on trial, including top commanders. Mubarak himself was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the killings, but won a retrial on appeal.
On Saturday, a court acquitted six police officers of killing 83 protesters during the 2011 uprising outside police stations in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Prosecutors allege that the attacks on police stations and the jailbreaks, in which Morsi and other political prisoners escaped, were a Brotherhood-led conspiracy to sow chaos in Egypt.
That narrative of events has gained wider public acceptance amid a backlash against the Brotherhood following Morsi’s turbulent year in power.
Morsi also faces two other trials, one for espionage and carrying out “terror attacks”, and one for the killing of protesters during his presidency.
He is also expected to go on trial for “insulting the judiciary”, but no date has yet been set for that case.