Last updated: 9 April, 2014

Egypt court rejects new judges for Morsi trials

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

The trials are part of a sweeping crackdown waged against Morsi 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.

Defence lawyers had requested that a new panel of judges examine both cases involving Morsi 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 Morsi 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 Morsi and lawyer Selim al-Awa.

The court also fined two defendants, Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Beltagui and Islamic preacher Safwat Hegazi, 6,000 Egyptian pounds (more than $850, 600 euros) for each trial, as the recusal request had been made in their names.

Morsi 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 Morsi and other political prisoners escaped, were a Brotherhood-led conspiracy to sow chaos in Egypt.

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

Morsi 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 Morsi’s overthrow, more than 1,400 have been killed in a crackdown, according to Amnesty International. Thousands have been jailed.