Last updated: 9 October, 2013

Murder trial of Egypt’s Morsi to start November 4

An Egyptian court Wednesday set November 4 for the trial of Mohamed Morsi for inciting the murder of protesters, a move likely to further anger the ousted Islamist president’s supporters.

The news comes as US officials told AFP Washington is poised to stop delivery of major weapons to Egypt because of the widespread crackdown on Morsi’s supporters since the Islamist president was ousted in a July 3 coup.

Morsi and 14 others are charged over the killings of protesters outside his palace last December, the official MENA news agency reported.

Prosecutors have charged Morsi, who has been held incomunicado since the July 3 coup, with “inciting his supporters to commit premeditated murder” during December 5 clashes outside his palace.

He will stand trial before a Cairo district court, MENA reported.

The December fighting erupted when Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the president dispersed a sit-in outside the palace by people angered over Morsi issuing a decree placing his decisions beyond judicial review.

Seven people were killed.

The Brotherhood claimed that most of those killed were Islamists, an assertion disputed by his opponents. At least one of the victims was an anti-Morsi journalist.

The co-defendants include several of the former president’s aides and Brotherhood leaders, also in jail or on the run.

Following the coup, security forces launched an extensive crackdown on Islamists that has killed more than 1,000 people.

In September, a court banned the Brotherhood and ordered its assets seized, and there have been mass arrests of its members.

And on Wednesday, the cabinet ordered the dissolution of a non-governmental organisation linked to the Brotherhood, state media reported.

For weeks now, Morsi supporters have been taking to the streets to demand his release and his reinstatement. Clashes with security forces and their civilian backers on Sunday killed 57 people.

Much of the Brotherhood’s leadership, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, are standing trial on other charges.

Hundreds of Islamist loyalists and several dozen security personnel were killed on August 14 in clashes that erupted after security forces violently broke up two pro-Morsi protest camps set up in Cairo.

The upcoming trial is likely to further cement a stalemate between Morsi’s supporters, who are demanding his release, and the new military-installed government.

More than three months after the coup and ensuing crackdown, the Brotherhood now appears intent on continuing sometimes violent protests in a bid to destabilise the new government.

The movement has called for more marches on Friday to head to Tahrir Square in central Cairo, in a repeat of protests last weekend.

Major US arms delivery could stop

US officials said Wednesday that Washington was poised to hold up the delivery of major weapons to Egypt, including Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets and M1A1 Abrams tanks over the crackdown.

The White House did not confirm it would scale back assistance to Cairo but said it would not cut off all aid, which amounts to $1.5 billion annually, most of it in military hardware and training.

“The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement late Tuesday, adding the administration would unveil plans on Egypt “in the coming days.”

And State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said recent violence in Egypt was “exactly why this massive policy review has been undertaken, because business can’t continue as usual.”

She said the administration may distinguish between aid that flows directly to Egypt’s authorities and assistance that goes to non-governmental organisations.

US officials say American aid focused on counter-terrorism efforts — including operations in the Sinai desert near Israel’s border — would likely continue.

Morsi, who ruled for one extremely divisive year before his ouster, will be the second Egyptian president standing trial over the killings of protesters.

His predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, is on trial for complicity in the deaths of protesters during the 18-day uprising that forced him to resign in early 2011.

Although the Brotherhood publicly demands Morsi’s reinstatement, its leaders privately say they would settle for their leaders’ release and that officials responsible for killing protesters be held to account.