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CAIRO — Egypt’s top prosecutor referred Sunday ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to trial on charges of inciting the killing of opponents protesting outside his palace while he was in office, the state news agency said.
The military ousted Morsi on July 3 after millions took to the street demanding he step down. He’s been held incommunicado since. Despite other accusations by prosecutors, Sunday’s decision is his first referral to trial. No date was announced for the trial.
Morsi will be tried, along with 14 members of his Muslim Brotherhood, in a criminal court for allegedly committing acts of violence, and inciting the killing of at least 10 people.
The case dates back to one of the deadliest bouts of violence during Morsi’s one year in office. At least 100,000 protesters gathered outside his presidential palace on Dec. 4, protesting a decree he issued to protect his decisions from judicial oversight and a highly disputed draft constitution that was hurriedly adopted in the Islamist-dominated parliament.
Protesters demanded he call off a referendum scheduled days later. The next day, Islamist groups and supporters of Morsi attacked protesters who camped out there, sparking deadly street battles that left at least 10 dead and sending chills among Morsi’ opponents that he had relied on organized mobs to defend his palace.
The state news agency said an investigation by prosecutors revealed that Morsi had asked the Republican Guard and the minister in charge of police to break up the sit-in, but they feared a bloody confrontation and declined. The agency said Morsi’ aides then summoned their supporters to forcefully break up the sit-in.
Officials from the Brotherhood and its political party deny using violence to quell critics and said supporters were defending the palace. They accused opponents of starting the battles and forcing away police that had been guarding the area.
Those referred to trial with Morsi include the deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s political party, Essam el-Erian, currently in hiding. They also include leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy, arrested this week, as well as leading pro-Brotherhood youth leaders who were video-taped during the street clashes on the front lines.
Since Morsi’ ouster, authorities have waged an intensive security crackdown on members of his group. The crackdown followed a violent breakup of a sit-in held by Morsi supporters for weeks demanding his reinstatement that left hundreds killed.