Egypt's toppled President Mohammed Mursi stood alone in a soundproof glass-encased metal cage at the start of a new trial yesterday wearing a white prison uniform, pacing and shouting angrily at the judge in apparent disbelief: "Who are you? Tell me!"
Mursi is on trial with 129 others, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and militants from the Palestinian Hamas group and Lebanon's Hezbollah, on charges related to prison breaks at the height of the 18-day 2011 uprising against his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
The trial coincided with the third anniversary of one of the most violent days of the revolution that plunged the country into prolonged turmoil and eventually led to the virtual collapse of the police and their withdrawal from the streets.
Mursi supporters clashed with police yesterday in central Cairo, and gunmen killed an aide to the country's interior minister, in a high-profile drive-by shooting. Security forces also deployed heavily and erected checkpoints as they braced for more violence ahead of scheduled protests by Mursi supporters.
The former Islamist president, ousted in a popularly backed July 3 coup, also declared to the judges that he remains Egypt's legitimate leader during an unaired portion of the hearing, a state television reporter inside the courtroom said.
In aired edited footage, defendants chanted that their trial was "invalid." Earlier, the defendants turned their back to the court to protest against their prosecution, the journalist said.
In a half hour of recorded footage aired on state television, Mursi protested against being held in a cage for the court proceedings.
Raising his hands in the air, he angrily questioned why he was in the court, yelling in apparent disbelief: "Do you know where I am?"
Judge Shabaan el-Shami responded: "I am the head of Egypt's criminal court!"
Mursi paced up and down in a metal cell separated from other defendants. Earlier, a promised live feed was cut, something a senior state television official told local media that security forces had demanded.
Authorities have said the jailbreaks were part of an organised effort to destabilise the country.
Rights groups have called for an independent investigation into the chaotic events, saying they hold the police responsible for the pandemonium.
A Brotherhood lawyer has said the trial appears aimed at "denigrating" Mursi and the Brotherhood.
It was the second time Mursi has appeared in court since the 2011 coup.
At his first appearance in November, Mursi appeared far less agitated, though he interrupted the judge and gave long speeches, declaring he was "the president of the republic".