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CAIRO — Courtrooms in Cairo echoed Sunday with the alleged crimes of fallen leaders who personify a divided nation that cannot escape its repressive past even as it moves to crush those with designs on its future.
In a downtown courthouse, a judge postponed until October a murder-related trial against Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including supreme guide Mohamed Badie. The case is the latest twist in the Brotherhood’s tumble from power that began last month when the coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi dashed Islamist ambitions to run the country.
On the outskirts of Cairo former leader Hosni Mubarak, 85, who was freed from prison on bail last week, peered from the defendant’s cage during his retrial on charges of complicity in the deaths of more than 800 protesters during the 2011 uprising against his rule. His case was adjourned until Sept. 14.
Egyptian media portrayed the prosecution of longtime foes as “trials of the two regimes.”
The legal ordeals of the longtime enemies are telling glimpses into a nation that has yet to rise above suspicions between Islamists and a state that since its independence in the 1950s has been dominated by military men. There is little pretense of democracy; the fight for the nation’s character has shifted from the realm of politics to police raids, prison cells, and courtrooms for reining in government opponents.
Mubarak represents an authoritarian state that has been revived by a military-appointed government that is persecuting the Brotherhood as terrorists.
“The state has become more vindictive than legal,” said Engy Hamdy, an activist with the April 6 movement. “If we stay this way, any ruler who comes will have the tools to work for his own interests and not for the interests of the people. ... It’s a reflection that Mubarak is not just a name or a person; it’s an ideology that persists even until now.”
The court on Sunday delayed the trial of Badie and two of his deputies, Khairat Shater and Rashad Bayoumi, until Oct. 29.
Badie was jailed as part of a widespread series of arrests — in the thousands, by some estimates — that began last month when the military ousted Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi and continued Sunday to include affiliates and relatives of the group’s leaders.
Since Mr. Morsi’s fall, more than 1,000 people, including about 100 soldiers and police, have died in violence across Egypt. Brotherhood supporters say the toll is much higher.
Weeks of mass rallies by Muslim Brotherhood supporters over Mr. Morsi’s ouster have weakened as security forces have detained many Brotherhood leaders. The military-backed government has responded by relaxing curfew hours, trying to signal a return to normalcy across the country.
“We have crossed the swamps and muddy pools, and now we are on the safe side,” Ahmed el-Musalamani, a government spokesman, said Sunday.
Still the military and police, who were criticized for human rights abuses after Mubarak’s overthrow, are less concerned with the sins of the state’s past than with eviscerating the Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations they regard as fomenting radicalism.
The government will “not hesitate to confront any threat that targets the Egyptian national security,” said a statement by the Cabinet.