An Egyptian court adjourned to Thursday the trial on conspiracy charges of deposed president Mohamed Morsy and 35 other Islamists after some defence lawyers asked the judges to recuse themselves.
Prosecutors charge that Morsy and 35 other Islamists, including key leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood, agreed with the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah movements to carry out terrorist operations that would “create chaos to bring down the Egyptian state and its institutions.” They are also accused of involvement in smuggling arms into Egypt and disclosing state information that harmed the country’s independence.
On Sunday, lawyers for two of the defendants asked the judges to recuse themselves, saying there was “an appearance of animosity” between the bench and their clients after a similar request was made in a related trial on Saturday.
A court-appointed lawyer for Morsy also asked for records on the former president’s arrest and imprisonment.
Morsy, who became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in June 2012 but was overthrown by the army following mass protests a year later, was held in a secret location by the armed forces until his trial on separate charges of inciting violence against protesters began in November.
The former president has refused to appoint a defence team, engaging a prominent Islamist lawyer but mandating him only to argue that Morsy remains the legitimate president of Egypt and can only be tried before a special court specified in the constitution for the purpose.
Morsy faces a total of five trials. Saturday’s hearing was the latest in a case in which he and other Islamists are accused of conspiring with Hamas and Hezbollah to escape from and storm prisons during the 2011 uprising against former president Hosny Mubarak.
The trial over the violence in which protesters were killed outside the presidential palace in late 2012 is ongoing. Dates for the other trials, on charges of defaming the judiciary and fraud, have yet to be set.
Almost all the senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are now jailed facing criminal proceedings or have fled Egypt since the new authorities launched a massive crackdown on the group after Morsy’s ouster.
Thousands of lower-level leaders and supporters of the Islamist movement, which the government has designated a terrorist organisation, have been rounded up in arrest campaigns and during protests.