November 2, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5507

Anticipation In Egypt On The Eve Of The Trial Of Ousted President Muhammad Mursi

November 2, 2013
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 5507

On November 4, 2013, the trial for ousted Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi and 14 of his aides will commence at the police academy in Cairo near Tura prison. Mursi, who has not been seen since his ouster, and whose place of detention is unknown, will be brought to court in a military helicopter. The first session will deal with the charge of harming and killing civilians at a demonstration outside the Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace in early December 2012; the demonstration was in protest of Mursi's assuming sweeping authority, revoking authority from the judiciary, and granting immunity to the constituent assembly.[1] The same charge also accuses Mursi and his men of harming dozens of the protestors by monitoring them, inciting against them, and killing or intentionally wounding them, and of torturing dozens more. If they are found guilty, they could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty.[2] During this stage of the trial, no other counts in Mursi's indictment are expected to be discussed..[3]

"The Trial of the 'Tribe'" – Indictment counts: Deliberate killing and torture of 77 protestors; unlicensed possession of weapons forceful dispersion of sit-down strikes and intimidation of protestors; violation of public safety, and killing children (Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Egypt, October 24, 2013)

According to the English-language Muslim Brotherhood (MB) website, Mursi does not recognize the authority of the court, and therefore his legal team will not offer a defense, but will only observe the proceedings. Mustafa Azab, the spokesman for the team, which comprises Egyptian legal experts and calls itself "the legal team of the victims of the coup," announced that "no lawyers will be defending President Muhammad Mursi," and denied rumors that he has appointed a team of defense attorneys from Qatar and Turkey. His announcement states: "The president [Mursi] does not recognize the trial or any of the actions and processes that resulted from the coup, such as the politicization of the judiciary, involving it in the political struggles so it becomes a means of repression and terror used by the coup regime against opponents." The announcement concludes with a call to all "human rights activists and lawyers across the free world... to attend the president's trial, to observe the proceedings, to witness the trampling of justice, and to see for themselves the crimes committed by security authorities in Egypt with the help of the public prosecution service, fabricating charges for opponents of the coup..."[4]

On the eve of the trial, some newspapers identified with the MB's opponents published reports on the statements Mursi will deliver at the trial. The editor of the daily Al-Watan published what it claimed was a transcript of a recording by Mursi from the prison, in which he said he would defend himself in the trial and tell the judges that he was uninvolved in the killing of the demonstrators.[5] The daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi's estimate, relying on the testimonies of intermediaries who recently visited the imprisoned Mursi, is that Mursi will say that he is not interested in the presidency but only in defending the legitimate elected regime, and that he is willing to defend this cause with his life. [6] In protest against Mursi's trial, his supporters are planning large-scale demonstrations throughout the country, starting Friday, November 1, 2013 and leading up to the day the trial opens. This follows rioting they have staged in recent weeks at universities throughout the country, particularly at Al-Azhar University. They claim that the trial of the legitimately elected Mursi is illegal, and that it is the current regime that should actually stand trial. Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian anchor for Al-Jazeera TV who opposes Mursi's prosecution, has argued that those killed in the events outside Al-Ittihadiya Palace were primarily supporters of Mursi, and thus there is no logic in accusing Mursi of killing them.

On the other hand, the press that is associated with Mursi's opponents is claiming that Egyptians are clamoring for this trial, and feel that it is even more justified, than the trial for Mubarak. It is depicting MB protests against the trial as an attempt to draw security forces away from the courthouse so that Mursi supporters can surround the courtroom, or even storm it to free Mursi. These newspapers are also claiming that MB supporters are planning terror attacks, two of which - according to the security forces - were thwarted last week.

As for the security surrounding the trial, it has been reported that a strategy was formulated under the direct oversight of the Defense Ministry and Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim, and that over 20,000 security personnel as well as special forces will secure the event. The judges are to receive special protection.[7]

The following is a review of reactions from Mursi supporters and opponents leading up to the trial:

Mursi's Supporters

We Will Protest Outside The Courthouse In The Name Of Liberty And Legitimacy; We Are Prepared To Defend The Cause Of Liberty With Our Lives

In advance of the start of the Mursi trial, his supporters called for mass protests throughout Egypt and the world,and launched the "Batel" campaign, which aims to collect 30 million signatures on a petition against "the military coup." They claim to have thus far collected over four million signatures.[8]

The campaign's Facebook page posted the following message: "The Batel campaign calls on all free Egyptians to gather on November 4, the date of the first session in the trial of the legitimate abducted president, Muhammad Mursi, at the place to be set by the coup judges for the trial, at all free squares in Egypt, and outside Egyptian embassies throughout the world, under the slogan 'In Defense Of My Voice And Legitimacy – Not Mursi.' This is in order to protect our remaining liberty and our will, which was appropriated by the military coup when it ousted the first elected civil president, [dispersed] the elected Shura Council, [and suspended] the constitution approved by referendum..."[9]

Batel campaign calls for protests on November 4 (, October 28, 2013).

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy – an umbrella organization of Mursi and MB supporters that played an active role in recruiting demonstrators for the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-'Adawiya Mosque and Al-Nahda Square following Mursi's ouster and for the pro-MB demonstrations throughout Egypt ever since – also called for demonstrations outside the trial's location. A statement it issued on November 3, 2013 said: "Let the entire world know that Egypt has free people who dream of liberty and are sacrificing their lives and all that is dear to them for its sake. They believe that liberty is more precious than life [itself] and that [our] peaceful [protest] is stronger than [the security forces'] bullets. [The demonstrations' objective is to let] those who initiated the coup, who are terrified of the demonstrators, know that they will never break [the demonstrators'] will and will not restore the oppressive and corrupt state. We challenge them to broadcast the absurd trial live, for they know what the steadfast president, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, will do to them…We will defend the dream, for as long as it takes and whatever the losses may be…"[10]

The Mursi Trial – Staged And Illegal

Several officials in the Salafi stream who support Mursi objected to his trial, and particularly to its timing, claiming that it could lead to bloodshed and could sabotage the efforts to arrive at a reconciliation and resolve the current crisis in Egypt. The spokesman for the Salafi party Al-Watan, Ahmad Badi', said that Mursi's trial was illegal and that it would make it more difficult to find political solutions to the crisis; he added that Mursi could be acquitted for lack of evidence. The director of the media office of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, Muhammad Hassan, also called the trial illegal, because Mursi was the legitimate president. Nageh Ibrahim, a founding member of Al-Gama'a Al-Islmaiyya, said that he considered the trial "a mistake" and that if it were not postponed, it would only increase protests and bloodshed.[11]

In his column in the Qatari daily Al-Watan, Egyptian Al-Jazeera TV presenter Ahmed Mansour defended Mursi: "The initiators of the coup are hard at work on the theatrical staging of the trial of the first elected president in the history of modern Egypt, Muhammad Mursi. This comes after he was ousted by the military on July 3, 2013, [and held] in a location heretofore unknown. The initiators of the coup have set November 4, 2013, as the date for his trial, and have also set the police academy near Tura prison as the place where the ousted president will be tried. Furthermore, Nabil Salib, the president of the appellate court and head of the Egyptian election committee, is expected to head the tribunal that will try Mursi...

"The strange thing is that all the victims of the Al-Ittihadiya palace but one are MB members. This means that Mursi is accused of killing his supporters, who came out to support him despite thugs recruited by the Deep State[12] at that time to storm the palace, after the Interior Ministry and presidential guard failed in their protection of it...

"The initiators of the coup are hard at work staging this day, by inviting media personalities and lawyers to attend. The preparation of this theatrical media show is an attempt by the initiators of the coup to stress that it is they who hold the reins of power in the country, and that [these] prosecutions have brought about an end to the previous regime...

"[But it is] Mursi, not the initiators of the coup, who will determine how his trial proceeds. In light of calls by his supporters to gather [for protests], November 4 will be not only the day of Mursi's trial, but may be one of the most important days of the struggle in the streets of Egypt against the initiators of the coup."[13]

Mursi's Opponents

The MB Are Planning To Disrupt The Trial, Carry Out Terrorist Attacks

The Egyptian press associated with Mursi opponents has released many reports in recent weeks regarding Mursi supporters' intentions to disrupt the trial with protests and terrorist attacks throughout the country. For example, on October 18, 2013 a senior source said that military and police forces had captured 13 terrorists in the northern Sinai that had intended to blow up the police academy building during the trial.[14] On October 30, 2013, it was reported that an MB cell planning to carry out terrorist and violent actions against public facilities on the day of the trial was captured in Al-Giza.[15]

According to these reports, Mursi supporters intend to protest during the week leading up to the trial at public squares, and especially at universities, where since the beginning of the academic year Mursi supporters and opponents have clashed daily. This, the reports say, is to keep security forces occupied in those areas, not where the trial is being held – where Mursi supporters plan to hold a mass sit-down strike in order to prevent Mursi from entering the courtroom and being humiliated in prisoner garb in the defendant's cage.[16]

According to another report, thousands of Mursi supporters, along with Hamas, are undergoing training, on orders from the international MB organization, to storm the courtroom and free Mursi.[17]

Al-Ahram: Mursi Has, In Effect, Become A Criminal

In an article titled "Mursi In The Cage, The End Of A Gang," the Al-Ahram daily's editorial board director, Ahmed Al-'Ashri, wrote: "Most Egyptians eagerly await the moment when they feel gratification and satisfaction [at the trial] of a president who murders and who heads a movement [the MB] that threatened to burn down the country... This comes after [Mursi and the MB] continually sabotaged, bombed, destroyed, and killed, because of their fascist mentality...

"This coming Monday [November 4, 2013], Mursi and Egyptians will come together in a fatal encounter. Perhaps the pictures of Mursi in the defendant's cage will not be fleeting new images that shock the Egyptians, since Mubarak [has already] set the precedent for this in the homeland's history. Back then [during his trial] sentiments varied and opinions were divided: some agreed and even welcomed this [Mubarak's trial], and some objected, mourned, were shocked, and had mixed emotions, because despite Mubarak's corruption and the organized theft, brazenly carried out by Egypt's ruling elite, it can be said in his defense that he at least left Egypt standing proud, and did not drag it into wars of chaos, terrorism, and destruction, and a mortal battle for identity...

"Today Mursi has, in effect, become a criminal pursued by the law, and will be a member of the prison family starting next week – for not just one case, but for six or seven criminal cases, each of which carry the death penalty, because of this man's treachery and violence..."The image of Mursi in a cage is clear evidence of the [MB] movement's failure – it is a death blow to the movement, an announcement of its death and of its demise. The image of Mursi in a white prisoner's uniform – the first image after his long absence – in a cage, behind bars, will be seared in [the Egyptians'] memory for a hundred years, and will never leave the minds of Egyptians and Middle Easterners; [it will serve] as proof of the so-called MB's incompetence, failure, and disappointment...

"This movement developed a hidden animosity towards the Egyptian people, military, and country. Mursi is the first president to lead Egypt to the brink of civil war... Therefore, we will neither forgive nor forget Mursi and his movement...

"Observe, and be inspired by, the image of Mursi and his movement in the cage – do they not deserve execution, even extermination, for the good of Egypt and its people[?!]"[18]

Al-Wafd website: "Mursi In The Defendant's Cage" (Al-Wafd, Egypt, October 30, 2013)

Roz Al-Yousuf cover page: "The Legal Evidence for Executing the 'Ousted [President]'" (Al-Wafd, Egypt, October 30, 2013)


[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 907, Egypt Under Muslim Brotherhood Rule: The Constitutional Declaration – Dictatorship In The Name Of The Revolution, December 7, 2012.

[2] Al-Wafd (Egypt), October 28, 2013.

[3] According to the Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yousuf, the additional charges against Mursi and his aides are: Insulting the judicial system, involvement in the abduction and murder of several prisoners, officers and soldiers; transferring information to Hamas and Qatar for them to carry out terrorist attacks in Egypt; and cooperating with Hamas on an attack on Egyptian prisons in January 2011, which led to the escape of many prisoners, including Mursi himself, from Wadi-Al-Natrun prison. Roz Al-Yousuf (Egypt), October 26, 2013. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 1003, "Hamas Embroiled In Internal Egyptian Struggles," August 2, 2013.

[4], October 27, 2013. According to the Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yousuf, Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-'Awa, a presidential candidate in the last elections who formerly served as an attorney for the MB and the Al-Wasat party will head Mursi's defense team. Roz Al-Yousuf (Egypt), November 3, 2013. For additional information on Al-'Awa, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.833 "The Egyptian Presidential Candidates,"May 11, 2012.

[5] Al-Watan (Egypt), November 2, 2013.

[6] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), November 3, 2013.

[7] Al-Watan (Egypt), October 24, 2013.

[8], October 25, 2013.

[9], October 28, 2013.

[10], November 3, 2013.

[11] Al-Shorouq (Egypt), October 29, 2013.

[12] A term for state institutions that maintain power even when heads of state change.

[13] Al-Watan (Qatar), October 30, 2013.

[14] Al-Fagr (Egypt), October 18, 2013.

[15] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), October 30, 2013.

[16] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), October 22, 2013.

[17] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 24, 2013.

[18] Al-Ahram (Egypt), October 29, 2013.

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