Egypt’s Mursi jailbreak trial postponed to rule on judges

The former Islamist President is under trial for organizing jailbreaks during the 2011 revolution

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An Egyptian court on Monday postponed the jailbreak trial of deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi after defence lawyers requested that the judges withdraw from the case.

The trial, one of three cases against Mursi, is part of a relentless government crackdown targeting him and his Muslim Brotherhood movement since his ouster by the army in July.

Infographic: Mursi’s trials and tribulations

Infographic: Mursi’s trials and tribulations
Infographic: Mursi’s trials and tribulations

“The court decided to stop looking into the case until a decision is taken on the recuse request” filed by defence lawyers, presiding judge Shaaban el-Shamy said before ending Monday’s session.

An appeal court is to look into the request on March 1 and decide whether to appoint a new panel of judges, a defence lawyer, Mohamed Abou Leila, told AFP.

Needing a new panel

Mursi and 130 other defendants including Palestinian and Lebanese militants are charged with organizing jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 revolt against strongman Hosni Mubarak.

At Monday’s hearing, lawyers of some of the defendants requested that a new panel of judges look into the case, complaining over a soundproof glass cage in which the accused are held during the court sessions.

The soundproof dock is designed to stop Mursi and the other defendants from interrupting the proceedings with outbursts, as they have done in several hearings.

Khaled Badawi, another defence lawyer, said the request was also motivated by the alleged taping of private conversations between the defendants and their lawyers, after an Egyptian newspaper leaked a discussion between Mursi and lawyer Selim al-Awa.

Badawi said a similar request was also made at Mursi’s espionage trial, in which he is accused of leaking state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Rare acceptance

Colleague Ali Kamal said it was “rare for a recuse request to be accepted” by the Egyptian judiciary.

Since his ouster, Mursi 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.

Prosecutors allege that the attacks on police stations and the jailbreaks, in which Mursi and other political prisoners escaped, were a Brotherhood-led conspiracy to sow chaos in Egypt.

Mursi is also currently on trial over the killing of protesters during his presidency. In another case, he is expected to be tried for “insulting the judiciary”, but no date has yet been set.

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