Three leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the movement’s former arch-foe, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, faced separate trials yesterday on similar charges of involvement in the killing of protesters.
With Egypt now under an army-installed government after last month’s overthrow of ousted Islamist Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, local media seized on the symbolism of scheduling both sessions on the same day.
In the end, Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s “General Guide,” and his deputies did not appear at the opening of their trial for security reasons, a judicial source said. Citing their absence, the judge adjourned the proceedings until Oct. 29.
The case against Badie, Khairat al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumy relates to unrest before the army removed Morsi on July 3. Morsi has been detained in an undisclosed location since then.
More than 1,000 people, including about 100 soldiers and police, have died in violence across Egypt since Morsi’s fall, making it the bloodiest civil unrest in the republic’s 60-year history. Brotherhood supporters say the toll is much higher.
Mubarak, who left prison on Thursday after judges ordered his release, appeared in a courtroom cage in a wheelchair, wearing sunglasses and dressed in white, along with his jailed sons Gamal and Alaa and former Egyptian minister of the interior Habib al-Adly.
After a hearing that lasted about three hours, the judge set the next session for Sept. 14, pending further investigation.
Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison last year for complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolt against him, but an appeals court ordered a retrial.
The government used a state of emergency it declared earlier this month to place Mubarak under house arrest, apparently to forestall any public anger if he had simply walked free.
The Brotherhood, which won five successive post-Mubarak votes, says it is a peaceful movement unjustly targeted by the generals who ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
The military contends it was responding to the people’s will, citing vast demonstrations at the time against the rule of a man criticized for accumulating excessive power, pushing a partisan Islamist agenda and mismanaging the economy.
Charges against Badie and his aides include incitement to violence in connection with an anti-Brotherhood protest near the group’s Cairo headquarters on July 30 in which nine people were killed and 91 wounded.
The 70-year-old Brotherhood leader was detained last week. Shater and Bayoumy were picked up earlier.
In a sign of confidence, the government on Saturday relaxed a night-time curfew it had imposed on Aug. 14 when the protest vigils were stormed. The curfew now starts at 9pm instead of 7pm, except on Fridays, when protests are common.
Morsi’s return is not on the cards for now. The army has announced a roadmap for a return to democracy that involves overhauling the constitution adopted under Morsi late last year, with parliamentary and presidential elections to follow.
Changes proposed by a government-appointed legal panel would scrap last year’s Islamic additions to the constitution and revive a Mubarak-era voting system.
Islamists and liberals have expressed alarm about the suggestions.