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Ousted Egyptian President Morsi strikes defiant tone on first day in court

November 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: Egypt’s first democratically elected president, now on trial for inciting murder, was defiant during his brief first day in court.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

KWAME HOLMAN: Mohammed Morsi’s arrival for his trial shown on state television marks the first time he has been seen publicly since the military forced him from power in July. The trial is being held at this highly fortified police academy compound.

Broadcasters could not air statements from inside the courtroom, but one of Morsi’s lawyers said he took a defiant stance.

HASSAN KORAYIM, attorney for Mohammed Morsi (through interpreter): When he came into the hall, the lawyers began chanting in support of him and in support of his legitimacy. The president said when he came in that he rejects the military coup, the court, and the legitimacy of the prosecutor general. And he demanded that the judges put on trial the leaders of the military coup.

KWAME HOLMAN: The 62-year-old Morsi was kept in a courtroom holding cell, along with 14 co-defendants, top members of his Muslim Brotherhood.

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They’re accused of inciting this violence in Cairo last December against opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ten people died in the clashes. Morsi supporters say the case is trumped up. Hundreds of them rallied outside the trial site today.

MAGED MOHAMED, Morsi supporter (through interpreter): Of course this is a sham trial. They have tricked people and told them it is a real trial. We want a public trial so we can know the truth.

KWAME HOLMAN: Riot police later fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. The trial opened a day after Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo. The U.S. has suspended some aid to Egypt over Morsi’s ouster, but Kerry sounded conciliatory.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We want to help. We’re prepared to do so. And the way it will unfold is the democracy is rekindled in its strength. And as the people of Egypt make their choices in the future, I’m confident the United States of America will be able to stand with you and do even more.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Morsi trial now has adjourned until January 8 to give lawyers time to review documents. The deposed president could face the death penalty if he’s convicted.