CAIRO — After four months in secret detention, deposed President Mohammed Morsi defiantly rejected a court’s authority to put him on trial Monday, saying he still was Egypt’s leader and that those who overthrew him should face charges instead.
The trial, which was interrupted twice on its first day by shouting in the raucous courtroom, was then adjourned until Jan. 8 to allow lawyers time to review the case against Morsi and his 14 co-defendants – all prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, had been held at an undisclosed location since the military ousted him in a coup July 3. His appearance in court represented a step by the military-backed authorities toward granting him due process in the face of mounting criticism by rights groups.
Defense lawyers said they had access to Morsi and his co-defendants during a recess on Monday and that the judge has agreed to allow them access to their clients in jail.
The 62-year-old Morsi, who wore a dark blue suit, light shirt and no tie, was feisty and healthy-looking during his court appearance. He had refused to wear a prison uniform as the judge had ordered, according to security officials, as part of his rejection of the trial’s legitimacy.
The dispute had delayed the start of the session by two hours, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Morsi and his co-defendants face charges of inciting the killing of protesters who massed outside the presidential palace in December and demanded he call off a referendum on a new constitution drafted by his Islamist allies. Brotherhood members attacked a sit-in by the protesters, sparking clashes that left 10 people dead.
Silent video broadcast on state TV showed Morsi arriving in a minibus outside the makeshift courtroom at a police academy in eastern Cairo, buttoning a dark blue jacket as he stepped from the vehicle and flanked by burly policemen.
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File In this photo. supporters of then-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsiís beat an opponent, center, during clashes outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian authorities switched the venue for the trial of the former Islamist president on Sunday – a last-minute change made after the Muslim Brotherhood called for mass demonstrations at the original location.×
AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi stand on a bridge as they march during his trial in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. After four months in secret detention, Morsi defiantly rejected a court’s authority to put him on trial Monday, saying he still was Egypt’s leader and that those who overthrew him should face charges instead.×