CAIRO: The trial of Mohamed Morsi over the deaths of protesters resumed Saturday, days after he shouted from the dock in a separate case that he was the legitimate Egyptian president.
His trial is seen as a test for Egypt’s military-installed authorities, who have come under fire for a heavy-handed crackdown on his supporters after he was forced out by the army last July.
An Islamist coalition backing the deposed leader called for nationwide protests Saturday in a statement to “support the legitimate elected president.”
Saturday’s hearing at a heavily guarded police academy in Cairo is the third session in the trial, in which Morsi and 14 others are accused of inciting the killing of opposition protesters in December 2012 outside the presidential palace.
Egyptian state media confirmed the hearing had started and the website of state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said Morsi and the other defendants turned their backs on the proceedings and gave a four-fingered “Rabaa” salute.
The gesture refers to a massive pro-Morsi protest in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square that was violently dispersed in August, setting off clashes in which hundreds of people, mostly Islamists, were killed.
It was not immediately possible to confirm details of the trial as reporters attending it were prevented from using mobile phones.
The previous hearing had been adjourned over “weather conditions” that prevented Morsi’s transport to court from prison in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Morsi is facing four separate trials, and at the first hearing of another trial on January 28 the defiant Islamist insisted he was still the legitimate president of Egypt.
In that trial, Morsi and 130 other co-defendants face charges of breaking out of prison during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood won a series of polls after Mubarak’s ouster and who became Egypt’s first freely elected leader in June 2012, was ousted a year later by the army after massive protests against him.
Amnesty International says that since Morsi’s overthrow on July 3 at least 1,400 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and his opponents.
Months of bloodshed has dimmed hopes for reconciliation in the Arab world’s most populous nation as it prepares for a presidential vote to be held by mid-April.
Egypt’s army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose popularity has skyrocketed since he ousted Morsi, is expected to seek the presidency.
Morsi also faces trials on charges of espionage in collaboration with the Palestinian Hamas movement, and insulting the judiciary. The espionage trial will start on February 16, while no date has yet been set for the other trial.
Morsi’s single year in power was marred by political turmoil, deadly clashes and a crippling economic crisis.
In December 2012, members of the Muslim Brotherhood attacked opposition protesters camped outside the presidential palace in protest at a decree by Morsi to grant himself extra-judicial powers.
At least seven people were killed in the clashes, and dozens of opposition protesters were detained and beaten by Morsi’s supporters.
The incident was a turning point in Morsi’s presidency, galvanising a disparate opposition that eventually organised the mass protests in June 2013.
Morsi’s defence says there is no proof he incited the clashes, and that most of those killed in the violence were members of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood, which moved in to protect the presidential palace after police withdrew.
The Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist organisation late last year, with any public show of support punishable by lengthy jail terms.