Egypt’s top prosecutor referred Wednesday toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to trial for conspiring with the Palestinian group Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and others to carry out a campaign of violence to destabilize the country following his ouster.
Prosecutors claim that while president, Morsi and his aides revealed state secrets to the militant groups and to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Morsi and 35 others, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s top three leaders, are also accused of sponsoring terrorism and carrying out combat training and other acts to undermine Egypt’s stability.
The charges, which refer to incidents as far back as 2005, carry the death penalty. The prosecution statement was entitled: “the biggest case of conspiracy in Egypt’s history goes to the criminal court.”
“After the removal of defendant Mohammed Morsi from office, and the change in the political scene in Egypt, the Brotherhood and those terrorist groups carried out explosions, attacks against the military forces, the police in Sinai to terrorize the Egyptians, create chaos, undermine the country’s independence… and incite sedition between the people to trigger a civil war in Egypt with the aim of bringing the ousted president back to office and reclaiming the Brotherhood’s grip” on power, the prosecution’s statement read.
Mohammed el-Damati, a defense lawyer for Brotherhood members, said the lawyers have not attended any of their clients’ interrogations and have no idea about the details of the charges. Among leading members also indicted in the case were top Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and deputy Khairat el-Shater, both also facing other trials. A second deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat, is also charged, but remains on the run. Also charged was Saad el-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood’s political party.
No trial date has been set in the new case. Morsi is already on trial on charges of inciting the murder of his opponents while in office. He was removed from office in July by the military, following days of mass protests demanding he step down. Morsi spent months in an undisclosed location before he appeared in court to face the incitement charges in November. That trial resumes in January.
“All the trials (against the Brotherhood) are political that have taken on legal covers,” el-Damati said.
The new charges Wednesday come as Egypt continues to deal with the aftermath of Morsi’s ouster. His supporters have maintained protests since his removal from office, demanding his reinstatement. The rallies have dwindled in strength however under a continued crackdown since last summer, with thousands arrested and hundreds killed in the violent breakup of protests.
El-Damati predicted that the trial won’t take place until after the referendum on the amended constitution, to be held on Jan. 14-15, because authorities want to ensure calm, he said.
The constitution is a significantly amended version of one that was adopted by a predominantly Islamist panel last year. The adoption of the new charter is the first step in a political road map announced in July by Egypt’s military chief when he removed Morsi.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, on Wednesday called for a boycott of the upcoming the referendum. Other allies of Morsi, including youth groups which have held near daily protests since his ouster, have said they will demonstrate on referendum days.
On the party’s official website, the statement said, “the military coup has intentionally worked on tarnishing the legitimate constitution which won the approval of two thirds of the people, producing a deformed one.”
Government officials had warned of attempts to create chaos on the day of the referendum, and state media reported that as many as 200,000 members of the security forces will be assigned to protect polling stations nationwide.
The prosecutors’ statement Wednesday said their new investigation showed that the Brotherhood’s international branch has carried out violent acts in Egypt to create chaos. Prosecutors allege the Brotherhood prepared a terrorist plot that involved smuggling weapons into the country and smuggling their own members into the Gaza Strip to receive military training from Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to carry out operations in Sinai.
Prosecutors said their investigation also showed the Brotherhood received funds from foreign countries. Investigators claim the plan began as earlier as 2005 and was activated in 2011 during the turmoil that accompanied the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi’s senior presidential aides, also members of the Brotherhood, revealed state secrets by emails to group members abroad, as well as to Hamas, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, prosecutors claim. The prosecutors said Morsi was aware of the leaks.
Morsi is already under investigation over allegations he and the Brotherhood worked with the Palestinian militant group Hamas on a prison break that freed him and other members of the group during Egypt’s 2011 uprising. That attack killed 14 inmates.
At least 17 of the 35 people charged Wednesday with Morsi are on the run, prosecutors said.