Mohamed Morsi trial: Defiant former Egypt leader tells court: 'I am the president of the republic. I am Egypt's legitimate president'

On the streets of central Cairo - usually a cacophony of screeching cars and honking horns - an unusual calm had settled

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The Independent Online

Mohamed Morsi, the man who became his country's first democratically elected leader following the 2011 revolt, stood in a courtroom cage today and defiantly declared what his millions of followers fervently believe: that he is still the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Emerging in public for the first time since he was whisked into detention by the military four months ago, Mr Morsi used a dramatic court hearing to insist that he was still the Egyptian head of state and it was his generals who should be in the dock.

"This is a military coup whose leaders must be put on trial in accordance with the constitution," Mr Morsi said.

Dressed in a dark blue suit but wearing no tie, the man who five months ago could command the attention of any Western leader from his palace in eastern Cairo had reportedly refused to wear a prison uniform.

"I am the president of the republic and I am here against my will," he declared to the judge. Standing in exactly the same cage and exactly the same room as his toppled predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, Mr Morsi argued that the trial was "providing cover" for the popular coup which ended his rule on 3 July.

Outside and on the streets of central Cairo – usually a cacophony of screeching cars and honking horns – an unusual calm had settled. Tahrir Square, cordoned off by barbed wire and armoured military vehicles, was deserted and deathly quiet.

As Mr Morsi railed against his predicament, several thousand supporters gathered in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court next to the Nile in southern Cairo.

Some leapt up onto the gates of the building and waved giant flags to declare their loyalty to the toppled President. One man pressed his face to the steel perimeter fence, trying to convince a nearby policeman of the righteousness of his cause.

"We have had 60 years of military government," said Mohamed Ismail, a 42-year-old electrician who had joined the demonstration. "We don't want it to return."

Everywhere there were banners featuring the yellow and black symbol of Rabaa al-Adawiya - the location of the August massacre in which Egypt's security services gunned down several hundred civilian protesters.

The four-fingered hand - a symbolic play on the word for 'fourth', or raaba'a in Arabic - demonstrates the totemic importance of the massacre for Morsi's supporters.

"I've come here to claim the rights of the Muslim Brotherhood martyrs," said Mohamed Hassan, 38, the sheikh of a mosque in the northern Delta region of Egypt. He added that he wanted a return of shara'aya, or legitimacy - another watchword of the pro-Morsi camp.

Egypt, say many of its inhabitants, is as divided as it has ever been. The government has successfully decapitated the Muslim Brotherhood, but the demonstration shows there is a sizable constituency who do not accept the transitional "roadmap".

Some of their uglier representatives were present outside the courtroom, attacking journalists and screaming abuse at photographers.

But there are also plenty of Egyptians who are full swing behind the military. A taxi driver on his way to the trial told The Independent how he would like to see the saga end. "I want to see Morsi executed," he said.

The trial has been adjourned until 8 January.


The defendants

• Mohamed Morsi - deposed Egyptian president

• Mohammed al-Beltagi - Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) secretary-general

• Ahmed Abdel Aati - head of Morsi's presidential office

• Assaad Sheikh - deputy chief of presidential staff

• Ayman Hodhod - adviser to Morsi

• Essam el-Erian - deputy head of the FJP

• Wagdi Ghonim - FJP cleric

• Alaa Hamza - Muslim Brotherhood member

• Abdel Rahman Ezz - Muslim Brotherhood member

• Ahmed al-Mogheer - Muslim Brotherhood member

• Gamal Saber - Salafist leader

• Four unnamed individuals

Source: Cairo Court of Appeals and the Public Prosecutor