Egypt court rejects new judges for Mursi trials

The trials are part of a sweeping crackdown against Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood

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An Egyptian appeals court rejected Wednesday a request that new judges be appointed for two trials involving ousted Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, judicial officials said.

The trials are part of a sweeping crackdown waged against Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood since the army overthrew him in July, and the former president could face the death penalty if convicted.

The court is now expected to set a date for the resumption of each of the two trials involving jailbreak and espionage charges, the officials said.

Defense lawyers had requested that a new panel of judges examine both cases involving Mursi and Brotherhood figures, complaining about a soundproof glass cage in which the accused are held when the court is in session.

The special dock is designed to stop Mursi and other defendants from interrupting the proceedings, as they have done in the past.

The recusal request was also motivated by the alleged taping of a private conversation between the defendants and their defence team, after a newspaper leaked talks between Mursi and lawyer Selim al-Awa.

The court also fined two defendants, Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Beltagy and Islamic preacher Safwat Hegazi, 6,000 Egyptian pounds (more than $850) for each trial, as the recusal request had been made in their names.

Mursi and 130 other defendants, including Palestinian and Lebanese militants, are accused of organising jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 uprising that toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

Prosecutors allege 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.

In the espionage trial, Mursi and 35 others are accused of conspiring with foreign powers, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Shiite Iran to destabilize Egypt.

Mursi is also on trial for inciting the murder of protesters during his presidency.

The ousted Islamist is to face a fourth trial for insulting the judiciary, but no date has yet been announced.

Since Mursi's ouster, more than 1,400 have been killed in a crackdown, according to Amnesty International. Thousands have been jailed.

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