Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak testifies against his successor Mohammed Morsi
Two protagonists of Egypt’s recent history faced each other in court this week, with toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak testifying for the first time against the Muslim Brotherhood’s jailed former president, Mohammed Morsi.
- Mr Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically-elected president after the 2011 Arab Spring
- Mr Mubarak has been freed from jail, having served three-years for corruption
- Mr Morsi is undergoing a retrial for allegations of prison breaks in 2011
Mr Mubarak, 90, gave evidence for an hour and a half at the high-security prison complex in southern Cairo where Mr Morsi is detained.
Wearing a dark suit and using a walking stick, he was escorted into the courtroom by his two sons.
Mr Morsi was dressed in prison overalls and seated in a thick glass and metal cage running down one side of the courtroom, like other senior figures of the Brotherhood who are defendants in the case.
About 30 relatives, mostly women, stood up to mouth and signal messages to the defendants at the beginning and end of the court session.
The hearing was part of a retrial in which Mr Morsi and others are accused of orchestrating prison breaks and breaches of Egypt’s eastern border during the uprising that ended Mr Mubarak’s near 30-year rule in February 2011.
Mr Morsi and the other Brotherhood leaders escaped jail two days after they were detained as Mr Mubarak’s security forces tried to quell the planned protests.
At the time, authorities also cut off internet access and mobile phone networks, crippling communication among the protesters and with the outside world.
A visibly frail Mr Mubarak, who was given a chair at the witness stand due to his age, was asked dozens of questions by the judge about security developments as the uprising against his 30-year rule gathered pace.
Mubarak says 800 foreign militants infiltrated Egypt
Speaking in a gravelly voice that gradually became stronger, he at times appeared impatient, saying he had no information or details.
Quizzed on alleged infiltration by foreign militants, he said his head of general intelligence had told him on January 29, 2011 of hundreds of people crossing Egypt’s border from the Gaza Strip to support the Brotherhood.
“He told me that there are armed groups which have infiltrated the borders with great numbers, around 800 people,” Mr Mubarak told the court.
But he declined to answer questions on the role of militant groups, so as not to discuss state secrets without authorisation.
“I want permission to speak about this, I am requesting permission so as not to commit an offence,” he said.
Mr Mubarak was himself jailed for six years following the revolution, appearing bed-bound in a courtroom cage and receiving a life prison term for conspiring to kill demonstrators.
He was freed after the final charges against him were dropped in March 2017.
Mr Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, and has been in prison since being overthrown a year later by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, then chief of the armed forces and now Egypt’s president.
After Mr Morsi was ousted, Egypt cracked down on the Brotherhood, its oldest and most organised Islamist movement, throwing thousands of its supporters in jail and labelling the group a terrorist organisation.
The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism.
Mr Morsi is already serving sentences totalling 45 years after being convicted in separate cases of spying for Qatar and on charges arising from the killing of protesters in 2012.
He was initially sentenced to death in the prison break case and handed a life sentence on charges of spying for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, but those verdicts were overturned.
Defendants’ relatives said they saw little hope of seeing justice.
“The court is farcical and the case is farcical,” said one, who asked not to be named.
Mr Morsi, who was in a white jumpsuit, refused to question Mubarak.
The chief judge adjourned the hearings until January 24.