Factbox: Egypt’s Brotherhood on Trial

As Egypt’s government has moved to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, its leading members have been brought up on multiple charges by the country’s courts. WIth widespread arrests of Brotherhood members and supporters, the judiciary continues to bring new charges against former president Mohamed Morsi, and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails. Morsi alone is standing trial on four separate charges – a 2011 prison break, inciting violence at the presidential palace, treason and insulting the judiciary. The trials, so far, are marked by outbursts and defiant moments from the defendants, many of them not recognizing the legitimacy of the courts. These trials continue to be postponed with no verdicts issued as of yet.

Presidential Palace Charges

Morsi is charged with inciting violence against protesters in front of the presidential palace in December 2012. The protesters were demonstrating in opposition to a new presidential decree that expanded presidential powers. Almost a dozen people were killed during the clashes. Fifteen members of the Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), as well as Islamist figures are are standing trial alongside Morsi, including FJP chairman Essam al-Erian, senior party member Mohamed al-Beltagy and preacher Wagdi Ghoneim. Plaintiffs have asked for further investigation into the role of Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and Saad al-Katatny in the incident. If convicted, Morsi could face the death penalty.

November 4: The first session of the presidential palace trial was also Morsi’s first public appearance since his overthrow on July 3. The trial, held at the Police Academy, was adjourned just hours after it began. With some 20,000 police officers and soldiers securing the area, Morsi remained defiant throughout the session, saying that he is the legitimate president of the country. Minor scuffles were seen inside the court between his supporters and opponents. Some called for Morsi’s execution.

The session was temporarily suspended twice as the caged defendants chanted against military rule. After the trial, Morsi was sent to Borg al-Arab prison, while the rest of the defendants returned to Tora Prison.

January 8: In the second session of the trial, Morsi did not appear in court reportedly due to bad weather. He was to be transported by helicopter from the Borg al-Arab Prison in Alexandria to the Police Academy in Nasr City in eastern Cairo. Despite heavy security surrounding the trial location, clashes erupted between pro-Morsi supporters and security forces. Forces also dispersed 2,000 Morsi supporters marching towards the Police Academy with tear gas. Elsewhere, Tahrir Square was closed off to prevent Brotherhood sit-ins. In Kafr al-Sheikh, Brotherhood supporters formed a human chain and called for Morsi to be reinstated. The trial was postponed to February 1.

February 1: The trial resumed on February 1, during which defense lawyer, Selim al-Awa, argued that Morsi is still the official president of Egypt. He also argued that this lawsuit should not be heard under this court, saying it was handling this case unconstitutionally. Morsi should be tried under a special court headed under the supreme judicial council, he argued. The defense asked for the glass casing around the defendants’ cages to be removed, arguing that the defendants could not hear the trial.

Morsi and the other defendants turned their back to the judges and raised the four-finger Raba’a gesture, a symbol that has come to represent the Brotherhood’s opposition to this government. Morsi remained quiet during the trial. The court adjourned until February 4 in order to allow the court to review videos related the case.

Meanwhile, Morsi’s son Ossama Morsi issued a statement denying that Selim al-Awa was appointed as defense lawyer but simply to object to the court’s jurisdiction.

February 4: The trial resumed under heavy security at the Police Academy. The plaintiffs asked to add other prominent Muslim Brotherhood members to the list of defendants including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie. Al-Ahram also reported that the defense called for former National Salvation Front general coordinator Mohamed ElBaradei, and former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahy and Amr Moussa to be added to the case. The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy called for protests supporting Morsi during his trial.

February 5: During the fifth session in the trial, civil rights lawyers called upon Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to testify in the case regarding a phone call he had with Morsi regarding the deadly clashes. According to Al-Masry al-Youm, Morsi spent the duration of the trial speaking with his co-defendants, but could not be heard due to the glass cage the defendants were placed in. The court adjourned to March 1 to review video footage of clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents that caused the deaths for which Morsi is being charged. In the March 1 session, the prosecution witnesses will testify, including the chief of the Republican Guards. A commission from the Radio and Television Union will also provide a report on footage presented as evidence against Morsi.

Prison Break Charges

In a trial resuming on February 22, Mohamed Morsi faces charges of helping 20,000 prisoners escape from the Wadi Natrun jail, north of Cairo, where he himself was being held during the January 2011 uprising. Morsi stands accused of releasing prisoners affiliated with Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi and his 130 co-defendants are also charged with damaging buildings, attempted murder, murder and looting weapons. They are also accused of kidnapping and murdering policemen. His co-defendants include former speaker of parliament and Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) leader Saad al-Katatni,FJP chairman Essam al-Erian, Mohamed al-Beltagy, and pro-Brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazy.

December 21: Morsi is referred to criminal court on murder charges.

January 28: The first day of the trial was held at the Police Academy in Cairo. Morsi had previously appeared in court on separate charges and refused to recognize the court. Despite Morsi’s defense team saying he would recognize the court during the trial, it was the scene of a heated exchange with the judge. From behind a glass cage, Morsi defiantly shouted, “I am the legitimate president of the country and this trial is not legal.” Morsi also shouted at the judge, yelling, “Who are you? Tell me!” Surprisingly, Morsi appointed Selim al-Awa to represent him as his defense lawyer. 

The trial was not broadcast on live television as was originally announced, but rather was broadcast a few hours later. The trial was adjourned to February 22 to allow time for the prosecution to arrest other suspects linked to this case.

Treason Charges

In the third set of charges brought against him, Morsi is accused of treason. He stands accused of collaborating with foreign organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, in order to organize terrorist acts in Egypt. He is also accused of working with groups to commit terrorist acts inside Egypt by giving away secret defense information to foreign countries, of funding these groups and helping them smuggle arms. The charges include attempting to incite violence and threaten national security. In this case, the Muslim Brotherhood is also accused of funding terrorist attacks against security forces in Sinai Peninsula. If found guilty, Morsi and his thirty-five co-defendants face the death penalty. The other defendants in this case include the Brotherhood’s Chief Guide Mohamed Badie, top leaders of the group Khairat al-Shater, Mahmoud Ezzat and Essam al-Erian.

December 18: A statement from the prosecutor general’s office announced the charges against Morsi, describing it “the biggest case of espionage in the history of Egypt.” The statement added that seventeen of Morsi’s co-defendants were at-large.

February 16: The first session of the trial is set to begin on February 16.

Insulting the Judiciary Charges

Morsi, in the fourth case brought against him, is accused of insulting the judiciary. He allegedly insulted the judiciary during a speech he gave in June 2013 while still president. In the speech, Morsi accused twenty-two judges, among them Ali al-Nemr, of forging the 2005 parliamentary elections under Mubarak. He is also accused of meddling with the prosecutors’ work. If found guilty on charges of insulting the judiciary, he could face a three-year jail sentence. Morsi’s co-defendants include former parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni and Mohamed al-Beltagy, the secretary-general of the Brotherhood’s political Freedom and Justice Party.

January 19: Morsi is ordered to stand trial for insulting the judiciary. His twenty-four co-defendants include liberal activists who have spoken out against the interim government, among them former members of parliament Amr Hamzawy and Mostafa al-Naggar. Alaa Abdel Fattah, an activist who has been detained since November on charges of protesting without permission, along with prominent media personalities Abdel Halim Qandil, Abdel Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tawfik Okasha, are also on the list.  

Qalyubiya Highway Charges

Mohamed Badie and forty-eight Morsi supporters are charged with blocking the agriculture road in Qalyubiya governorate. Two were killed and thirty injured when Brotherhood members allegedly fired shots in response to security forces’ attempting to disperse a pro-Morsi protest. Mohamed Beltagy and forty-six other Brotherhood leaders are being charged alongside Badie.

February 1: The defendants were unable to appear in the Shubra court in northern Cairo due to what the court described as difficulties transporting the defendants. The court was adjourned until February 3 for “administrative reasons.”

February 3: The trial was, once again, delayed due to difficulties in transporting the defendants to the Shubra court house. Once the court met, Badie was outraged and spoke out from the defendants dock claiming that he has been accused in twenty-eight cases but his son Ammar’s death during clashes in downtown Cairo has yet to investigated. Beltagy demanded an investigation into his daughter Asmaa’s death during the Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in and his alleged assault in prison. The defense lawyer asked for the case to be dismissed due to possibility of an unfair ruling associated with the negative biases against the Brotherhood since Morsi’s ouster. The trial was adjourned to February 15.

Port Said Charges

Badie and 190 other Muslim Brotherhood members are charged with inciting violence in Port Said in the aftermath of Raba’a dispersal in August 2012. Also being charged in this case are Brotherhood leaders Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian, as well as Safwat Hegazy. They are accused of plotting attacks on a police station in Port Said, releasing prisoners and stealing weapons in the process. They are also accused of inciting chaos in the country by making it seem as if the government no longer has control over the country.

February 4: The prosecutor general referred Badie and his co-defendants to criminal court for inciting violence in Port Said after the dispersal of the August Raba’a sit-in, leading to at least five deaths.

Istiqama Mosque/Bahr al-Azam Charges

Badie and other top Muslim Brotherhood leaders are accused of masterminding clashes between pro-Morsi demonstrators and police in front of the Istiqama Mosque in Giza in July 2012. Thirty-two people were killed and more injured in these clashes. Badie is also charged with murder, supplying militants with weapons, vandalism and disrupting security. Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and other Brotherhood leaders including Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian and former minister under Morsi Bassem Ouda are also being charged. Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy and al-Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel-Maged were also referred to criminal court.

January 29: Badie was referred to criminal court in South Giza on murder charges.

February 11: Badie and his co-defendants appeared in court on charges of masterminding clashes in front of the Istiqama Mosque in Giza. The trial was largely quiet with no outbursts or shouting from the defendants as opposed to other hearings. As Beltagy passed the journalists attending the trial, he said he had a complaint regarding his treatment while in prison. The trial was adjourned to March 8.

Sixth of October City Charges

Mohamed Badie is accused of inciting violence against a police station in Sixth of October City in the wake of the the dispersal of the Raba’a sit-in. Former member of parliament Mohamed al-Omda is also charged with inciting violence.

December 18: Badie was charged with inciting the storming of a police station in Sixth of October City.

Moqattam Headquarters Charges

Mohamed Badie and fifteen Brotherhood co-defendants are facing charges of murder and inciting violence in front of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam during the June 30 protests. Eight people were killed during clashes between Brotherhood supporters and opponents in the uprising that brought down former President Mohamed Morsi. Badie’s eighteen co-defendants include Brotherhood leaders Saad al-Katatny, former Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef, Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian and Rashad Bayoumi. According to the investigation, the leaders held a “secret meeting” on June 26 in which they agreed to allow armed groups to protect the headquarters, who were allegedly offered pilgrimage trips in return.

October 29: Three judges from the South Cairo Criminal Court presiding over the trial recused themselves citing a “conflict of interest” as their reason for stepping down.

December 11: For the second time, a panel of judges withdrew from the trial in which the Brotherhood leaders are accused of inciting the killing of protesters at the group’s headquarters. The defendants refused to recognize the court, chanting against military rule. The judges said they were unable to conduct the trial. 

February 13: The trial in which Badie and his co-defendants face charges of inciting violence and murder in front of the Brotherhood headquarters is set to resume.

Assiut Charges

Assem Abdel-Maged is accused of killing and injuring protesters in Assiut during the demonstrations that led to the ouster of former President Morsi. The defendants are also accused of violence and sabotage, as well as “disrupting public security”. Thirty other Brotherhood members are also being charged. They are accused of inciting violence and sabotage and “disrupting public security”.

February 4: Abdel-Maged is referred to criminal court for killing and injuring protesters in Assiut.