March 11, 2014
Egypt sends Morsi to trial in third case
Egypt's deposed Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and 129 others including members of Hamas and Hezbollah, were referred to trial today on murder and other charges related to a mass jail break during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
This are the third set of charges brought against Morsi since he was ousted by the army in July amid street protests against his rule and they intensify the relentless repression of his Muslim Brotherhood group in the months that followed.
Earlier this week, the prosecutor ordered Morsi and 35 other Brotherhood leaders to stand trial in a separate case that charges them with plotting with foreigners including Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out a terrorist conspiracy against Egypt.
Those charges, described as "risible" by the Brotherhood, could result in the death penalty for Morsi and his colleagues.
On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern about the charges against Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders in a phone call with army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man who ousted Egypt's first freely elected leader.
In a three-page statement, investigating judge Hassan al-Samir described the new case, relating to prison breaks during the anti-Mubarak revolt, as "the most dangerous crime of terrorism the country had witnessed".
Samir said he had uncovered a "terrorist plan" hatched by the Brotherhood long ago and carried out with foreign players including Lebanon's Shi'ite militant Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group which rules the Gaza Strip.
Morsi was one of those who escaped from prison after being rounded up with other Brotherhood leaders after the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak broke out on Jan. 25, 2011.
In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera immediately after he left prison, Morsi said the jail had been opened by locals with no instructions from Brotherhood leaders. He said he and other Brotherhood leaders had not fled and were looking for representatives of the prosecution to report what had happened.
Samir's statement did not name the accused Hezbollah or Hamas members. A judicial source said 68 of them belonged to Hamas. At least one Hezbollah operative jailed in Egypt escaped during the chaos in 2011. He then fled to Lebanon.
An ideological cousin of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas had been part of an alliance including Hezbollah until the Arab Spring uprising redrew the political map of the region. Morsi's opponents demonised the Palestinian group during his year in office, accusing it of scheming against Egypt.