The judges presiding over the trial of leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood stepped down from the proceedings yesterday, citing “uneasiness” over the trial, as the defense lawyers said the panel had come under pressure to hold the trial inside a prison.
The move forces the trial of 35 Brotherhood figures, including the group’s top leader Mohammed Badie, to start all over, though yesterday’s was only its second session.
The case is the first in what is likely to be a series of trials of Brotherhood members, including ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, whose trial on charges of inciting the killing of protesters begins on Monday.
Judge Mohammed el-Qarmouti from the three-judge panel at the Cairo Criminal Court announced the decision to step down just before the second session in the trial was to convene, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
He did not give a reason, saying only that the court “felt uneasiness.” He did not elaborate further.
Mustafa Attiya, Badie’s lawyer, said the judges decided to leave because they came under pressure by security officials to move the trial to inside Tora prison, where defendants are held.
“The judges refused, but the pressure continued,” he said. “This is not a trial, this is a farce.”
The court official could not immediately be reached to comment on Attiya’s account.
Since the trial began in August, it has been held in the Criminal Court’s chamber, but Badie and the other defendants did not appear, apparently for security reasons, for fear their presence would spark protests by supporters outside.
The defendants include six senior leaders, including Badie and his deputy Khairat el-Shater, the group’s powerful financier, and four other Brotherhood figures are on trial in the case on charges of incitement, stemming from June 30 clashes that left nine dead when Brotherhood members opened fire on protesters storming their Cairo headquarters.