Mohammed Mursi

Egypt judge angers lawyers during trial of pro-Mursi protesters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:47am

The judge in one of the largest trials of supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Mursi has declared he will issue verdicts for the more than 500 defendants after only two sessions, say lawyers who claim the move violated the norms of a fair trial.

The 545 defendants face charges relating to violence following the August dispersal by security forces of two pro-Mursi protests in Cairo, in which hundreds were killed.

In an apparent backlash, police stations, churches and government buildings were stormed.

The defendants stood accused of attacking a police station, stealing government weapons, killing a policeman and attempting to kill two others, the state news agency said. More than 400 defendants were being tried in absentia, defence lawyer Khaled el-Koumi said.

Koumi said the trial opened on Saturday with more than 100 defendants crammed in the court cage, which was set up to accommodate the large number. Security was tight and journalists were not allowed inside.

He said lawyers asked the presiding judge, Said Youssef, to postpone the case to give them time to review the hundreds of documents in the case, but the request was declined. A request based on constitutional demands also was rejected.

A security official in the court said the defendants and the lawyers were chanting against the judge: "God is our only refuge!" interrupting the session. A court official said Youssef tried to calm the chants but failed.

Thousands of Mursi supporters have been arrested since the military ousted him following mass protests against his government. It is one of the largest security sweeps in Egypt's modern history.

During many trials of Mursi supporters, their lawyers and the defendants have often interrupted judges, prolonging the procedures in what authorities said were deliberate attempts to delay prosecution.

Authorities have declared Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, and the interim president had asked the judiciary to increase the number of courts and judges to expedite trials.

Youssef refused the lawyers' request to stand down and insisted he would rule in the case, declaring the session adjourned for today for the verdict, the lawyer said. Another case opens tomorrow where 683 defendants are facing similar charges.