Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi Saturday urged supporters from a courtroom dock to press their “revolution”, as a protest movement demanding his reinstatement shrinks in the face of a crackdown.
The defiant call came during Morsi’s trial on charges related to jailbreaks and attacks on police, as a separate court acquitted six police officers of killing protesters during the 2011 uprising against his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
Meanwhile, gunmen killed a senior national security officer who was involved in drafting a report against leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood still stages diminishing weekly protests despite the fierce crackdown that has killed more than 1,400 people since the military overthrew Morsi in July, after just one year in office.
“The revolution of the people won’t stop — continue your peaceful revolution,” said Morsi during the second hearing of the trial, one of three under way for the Islamist leader.
Speaking from inside a glass cage, Morsi also insisted he remains the president of Egypt.
“I am present here by force,” he said.
Morsi also blamed Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who led his overthrow and who is expected to contest and win a presidential election this spring, for the bloodshed across Egypt.
“The head of the coup, the defence minister, has killed more than 3,000 people in the streets. He is the one who killed them and it was not investigated, but he will be held accountable,” said Morsi.
Defence lawyer Kamal Mandour demanded Sisi be investigated for “toppling the regime” of Morsi and for detaining him.
Another defence lawyer, Mohamed Abu Leila, asked the panel of judges to withdraw from the trial.
Morsi and 130 other defendants including Palestinian and Lebanese militants are charged with organising jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 revolt against Mubarak.
The defendants chanted “Down with the military” and flashed the four-finger salute associated with a pro-Morsi protest camp in which hundreds were killed in a police operation last August.
The trial was adjourned to February 24.
– Policemen acquitted –
Since his ouster, Morsi 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 revolt, most of them on January 28, 2011, when protesters battled the then-despised police.
Many of those slain were killed outside police stations when protesters attacked what they saw as symbols of Mubarak’s autocratic rule.
More than a dozen policemen were put on trial, including top commanders. Mubarak himself was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the killings, but won a retrial on appeal.
On Saturday, a court acquitted six police officers of killing 83 protesters during the 2011 uprising outside police stations in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Prosecutors allege the attacks on police stations and the jailbreaks, in which Morsi and other political prisoners escaped, were a Brotherhood-led conspiracy to sow chaos in Egypt.
That narrative of events has gained wider public acceptance amid a backlash against the Brotherhood following Morsi’s turbulent year in power.
Morsi also faces two other trials, one for espionage and carrying out “terror attacks”, and one for the killing of protesters during his presidency.
The second session of his trial on charges of espionage will be held Sunday.
Morsi is also expected to go on trial for “insulting the judiciary”, but no date has yet been set for that case.
Also on Saturday, gunmen shot dead Egyptian national security officer Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Eid as he ws leaving his car after driving back home in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, security officials said.
Eid was in charge of the “extremist groups’ file” and he had taken part in the drafting of a report that accused Brotherhood leaders of inciting and carrying out acts of violence, state news agency MENA reported.
Attacks on security forces have surged since Morsi’s ouster, and in particular after the military-installed authorities launched a deadly crackdown on his supporters.
Separately on Saturday, an Egyptian court sentenced 15 hardcore football fans known as Ultras to two years in jail, judicial sources said, adding the defendants were Morsi supporters.