Egypt ex-President Morsi defiant at jailbreak trial

The BBC's Sally Nabil, who is at courtroom in Cairo, said Mr Morsi was inside a sound-proof glass case to stop him disrupting proceedings

Egypt's former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi has struck a defiant tone at the beginning of his trial over his escape from prison in 2011.

Mr Morsi started shouting: "I am the president of the republic, how can I be kept in a dump for weeks?"

Egypt's first freely elected president was deposed by the military in July 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

He is now facing four separate criminal trials on various charges.

Mr Morsi and other defendants in the case are appearing in a sound-proofed glass box during the trial. He will only be permitted to address the court after raising his hand.

At the scene

When Mr Morsi entered the court, the defendants clapped in welcome. The defendants are being kept in a soundproof glass-encased cage. Mr Morsi was kept alone, separated from the rest of the defendants in a smaller glass cage - all stood with their backs to the judge.

When we were given the chance to hear the proceedings, the defendants started shouting "down with military rule" and "invalid", and the judge cut the sound.

Later, Mr Morsi lost his temper and started shouting: "I am the president of the republic, how can I be kept in a dump for weeks? Who are you, who are you?" The judge replied: "I am the head of the Cairo Criminal Court."

This was just one of the spats between the judge and the defendants. Mr Morsi is using colloquial language to address the judges. He has repeatedly stated he does not recognise the court. This was also the first time he had agreed to wear the standard white prisoner uniform for court.

But after the break, Mr Morsi was calm again and spoke politely.

When the judge called their names, none of the defendants answered, and complained they couldn't hear very well. In the middle of the session, lawyers asked to meet Mr Morsi and the court agreed. Mr Morsi chose Seliem El Awa to represent him. The defendants' lawyers requested the glass cages be removed saying they were a barrier between them and their clients.

At one point, journalists were given the chance to hear what was going on in the glass cage, the BBC's Abdel Bassir Hassan reports from the courtroom.

The defendants started shouting: "Down with military rule" and the judge cut off the sound.

Later, Mr Morsi began shouting that he was still the legitimate president and demanded: "Who are you, who are you?"

The defendants also made the four-finger "Rabaa" protest sign, referring to the clearing of the pro-Morsi Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in August.

Today is the third anniversary of the jailbreak at the centre of the case, during which police officers were killed.

Mr Morsi has previously said local residents freed the inmates.

Also on Tuesday, the interior ministry said that a ministry official, named in local media as Gen Mohammed Saeed, was shot dead in Cairo on his way to work.

Elsewhere in the capital, a policeman guarding a church was killed and another wounded by unidentified gunmen,

The shootings come amid a string of militant attacks on security services in recent days, and hours after Egypt's top military body gave its backing for army chief Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to run for president.

No supporters

Mr Morsi was taken to the court in Cairo by helicopter from a prison in Alexandria, Mena news agency reports.

Supporters of Egypt"s army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (portrait), who is to run for the presidency in the upcoming elections, hold military boots on their heads in a sign of support for military rule Some children outside the trial had boots placed on their heads to show support for the army

Tight security was in evidence around the Police Academy in Cairo hosting the trial, with armoured vehicles, police officers and military helicopters all visible, the BBC's Sally Nabil reports from outside the building.

Supporters of Field Marshal Sisi have gathered outside the building, but no pro-Morsi supporters have appeared.

Four trials of Mohammed Morsi

  • Incitement of supporters to commit violence and murder during break-up of December 2012 protest
  • Conspiring with foreign organisations (Hamas and Hezbollah) to commit terrorist acts
  • Murder of prison officers in jailbreak during 2011 uprising against President Mubarak
  • Insulting the judiciary

Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organisation and authorities have punished any public showing of support for it.

Clashes between Brotherhood supporters and security forces were reported in the Ramses area of central Cairo.

Another 130 people are also facing charges in the prison break trial, but many of the defendants are currently on the run.

Mr Morsi stands accused of organising a mass breakout from the Wadi al-Natrun prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, as well as the murder of prison officers.

When he first appeared in court in November in a separate trial, Mr Morsi chanted slogans against the current government and the court. He also refused to recognise the court's legitimacy or put on the required prison uniform.

In that trial, he and 14 other figures from the Muslim Brotherhood face charges of inciting the killing of protesters in clashes outside the presidential palace in December 2012, while Mr Morsi was in office.

Mr Morsi's supporters say he and other senior Brotherhood leaders are the victims of politically motivated prosecutions.

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