CAIRO, Egypt — The trial of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president on charges of inciting the murder of protesters was adjourned Wednesday until next month, after security officials said heavy fog grounded the helicopter meant to bring Mohammed Morsi to court.
Two defence lawyers in the case of Morsi, 13 leading Muslim Brotherhood members and an Islamist accused the government of trying to keep the toppled president out of the public eye ahead of a coming constitutional referendum. They also said authorities denied Morsi visits from his family and his defence team.
“The decision was inspired by the political circumstances— which require that he doesn’t appear,” defence lawyer Osama el-Helw said. Morsi’s “appearance will inspire his supporters.”
Wednesday’s hearing was to be Morsi’s second court appearance since his ouster in a popularly-backed military coup on July 3. In his first appearance, he insisted he was still the country’s legitimate president and challenged the legitimacy of the court, regularly interrupting the judges and prosecutors.
Morsi is held in a high security prison in Borg el-Arab, just outside of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, requiring him to be flown in for each of the court appearances in the outskirts of Cairo. Under Egyptian law, a defendant in a criminal trial must be in court for hearings to proceed.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told the private television station CBC that a helicopter due to transport Morsi had been ready, but thick fog prevented the helicopter from taking off.
The website of the airport at Borg el-Arab showed that traffic there was normal Wednesday, with one flight to Saudi Arabia cancelled. A later flight to Saudi Arabic departed on time. There was fog early Wednesday morning in Cairo, though it is regular this time of year.
Morsi’s hearing came less than a week before Egyptians are scheduled to start voting in a nationwide referendum on a new constitution that would replace the 2012 charter drafted under Morsi’s government if approved. About 680,000 Egyptians living abroad started voting on the new charter on Wednesday.