The trial of deposed Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi for espionage and allegedly escaping prison in 2011 got underway on Tuesday. It was Morsi’s second public appearance since he was put in jail following a military takeover last July, but it was not his presence in the courtroom that caused a stir, it was the soundproof glass cage that he was forced to sit in.
The glass cage that Morsi, and 20 other defendants from the Muslim Brotherhood, were confined to was a “novelty in Egyptian courts,” the New York Times reports, underscoring “the extent of the effort by the new government to silence the former president and his fellow defendants.” Egyptian media report that the glass cage, which was designed to be soundproof, was an effort to prevent the defendants from disrupting the trial. The fear of creating a spectacle, however, came not from the defendants themselves, but their glass surroundings. “It dominated the courtroom debate, with lawyers for the defendants arguing that it deprived the accused of their right to hear or participate in their own trial and supporters of the government crediting the soundproof barrier with preserving order in the court,” the Times reports.
Here’s more on the testy day via the Times.
Appearing on Tuesday in ordinary prison dress, Mr. Morsi passed his cage angrily and bided his time for a chance to speak again. When the judge turned on the microphone so that Mr. Morsi could acknowledge his presence, he shouted out, “I am the president of the republic and I’ve been here since 7 in the morning sitting in this dump,” according to account on a Brotherhood website that was confirmed by people who had been present. “Who are you?” Mr. Morsi asked the judge, “Do you know where I am?” He insisted he did not recognize the court’s authority to try him, in part since it was outside the constitutional procedures for impeaching a president. The judge, Shaaban el-Shamy, shot back: “I am the president of Egypt’s criminal court!” He turned off the microphone in Mr. Morsi’s cage and the ousted president was silenced.
Egyptian state television declared “the glass cage was the hero of today’s trial,” according to the Times. After the judge read the charges against Morsi the case was adjourned until Feb. 22.