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Uproar in Egyptian court halts Islamist leaders' trial

Source: Reuters - Wed, 11 Dec 2013 06:38 PM
Author: Reuters
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* Brotherhood leaders chant in court against "military rule"

* Brotherhood protests continue on campuses (Updates with resignation of university dean over protests)

CAIRO, Dec 11 (Reuters) - An Egyptian judge halted the trial of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday after they shouted slogans and refused to cooperate with the court.

Judge Mustafa Salama said the case of the Brotherhood's General Guide Mohamed Badie and fellow defendants, who are charged with inciting the killing of protesters, would be transferred to the Cairo appeals court.

Badie earlier led his co-accused in chants against the army-backed government, shouting "Down, down with military rule" from the cage where defendants are held in Egypt.

They were arrested in a crackdown on the Brotherhood after the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule.

It was the second time their trial had been halted. In October, a separate panel of judges withdrew from the case after a hearing which the defendants did not attend.

The charges against Badie, his deputy Khairat al-Shater and Brotherhood leaders Saad Katatni and Mohamed el-Beltagi relate to a June 30 protest against the Brotherhood near its Cairo headquarters in which nine people were killed and 91 wounded.

Security forces have piled pressure on the Brotherhood, outlawed by a court in September, as authorities press ahead with a political transition expected to yield presidential and parliamentary elections next year. The next step is a referendum on a new constitution, expected in mid-January.

A 50-member assembly finished the draft last week and handed it to interim President Adly Mansour, who will announce the date of the referendum in a speech on Saturday, his office said.

"Egypt tasted the sweetness of freedom, dignity and pride after Mursi took the presidency after the January revolution and he will not abandon (the revolution)," Badie told the court, according to judicial sources. He was referring to the revolt in which autocrat Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in early 2011.

Relatives of the accused erupted in applause after the judge announced the case would be transferred.

Badie said this week the Brotherhood had perpetrated no violence, as his trial in another case began at a police academy where Mursi appeared in court last month.

Police fired tear gas for the third day running on Wednesday at student supporters of the Brotherhood at Al-Azhar University. Authorities arrested 19 students at Al-Azhar and seven at Cairo University, also the scene of violent protests this week.

Sherif Murad, the dean of Cairo University's engineering faculty resigned, state-run Al-Ahram reported, quoting him as saying that the use of tear gas within the campus on Tuesday prompted his decision. He said he was unable to protect students or provide them with a safe learning environment.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told a news conference that security forces could finish off protests "in five minutes" but that he was trying to avoid casualties.

Egypt has seen the worst violence in its modern peacetime history since the army unseated Mursi, with hundreds of his supporters killed, along with about 200 soldiers and police. (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Maggie Fick; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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