Mohammed Mursi to face trial on charge of incitement to murder
Ex-president and Muslim Brotherhood leaders charged with incitement to murder over violent clashes outside presidential palace in December
Egypt's chief prosecutor has ordered former president Mohammed Mursi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders to stand trial on charges including inciting murder.
A panel of Egyptian judges recommended late yesterday the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood group, adding momentum to a push by authorities to ban the ousted Islamist president's main backers.
In its recommendation to Egypt's administrative court, the panel of judges accused the Brotherhood of operating outside the law. It also recommended the closure of its Cairo headquarters. The recommendation is nonbinding for the court, which holds its next hearing on November 12.
Yesterday's development and the prosecutor's order on Sunday seemed to extinguish hope of a political resolution that would bring the Brotherhood out from the underground and back into the political process.
The authorities, who allege that Mursi stoked deadly clashes outside his palace in December, did not detail the evidence against him. There is no public record of statements he may have made to incite violence. Since Mursi was deposed on July 3, setting off protest rallies and sit-ins across the country, the authorities have killed more than 1,000 of his supporters and jailed much of the Brotherhood's senior leadership.
The former president has been detained without formal charges since his overthrow.
Sunday's developments seemed to close off any chance for an imminent settlement to the stand-off between the Islamists of the Brotherhood and the military. They also marked another confounding turn for Egypt's chaotic political transition. As the country has lurched between military rule and fledgling democracy, its judiciary has remained marred by politics, one of many lingering remnants of Egypt's authoritarian past.
The timing of the prosecutor's order reinforced that feeling.
Mursi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was charged with capital crimes 12 days after his autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was released from prison.
Mubarak is under house arrest as he awaits a second trial on charges of complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters.
"The military and the state are trying to push the Brotherhood to lose any hope that he will be reinstated," Khalil al-Anani, of the Middle East Institute in Washington, said of the order to prosecute Mursi. "It's an attempt to paralyse the movement and affect its activism. It's very symbolic - this is a political move by the state against the Brotherhood."
The charges were announced on the same day that Egypt's military-backed government named a 50-person committee to amend a draft constitution.
Like the government, the committee includes only a few Islamists, effectively marginalising the country's leading political movement as the country's basic charter is rewritten. Officials said Brotherhood members declined invitations to participate.
The charges lodged against Mursi and 14 of his aides and colleagues in the Brotherhood relate to fatal clashes between the president's supporters and his opponents during one of the darkest periods of Mursi's troubled reign.
On December 5, Brotherhood leaders, apparently worried that the army and police had refused to protect the presidential palace from protesters, summoned their civilian supporters to do the job. Islamists attacked a sit-in by Mursi's opponents outside the palace. Then thousands of Mursi's opponents retaliated.
No trial date was announced.