A court in southern Egypt has begun hearing charges against 1,200 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood supporters say the mass trial is politically motivated.
Amid tight security, the first hearing against the Muslim Brotherhood supporters opened at the Minya Criminal Court, 240 kilometers (149 miles) south of Cairo on Saturday.
The trial against 1,200 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood is the country's biggest since the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July last year.
The group is charged with "involvement in violence" after security officials cracked down on two mass sit-ins being held by Morsi supporters in Cairo in August. They are also charged with inciting violence that led to the deaths of two policemen in Minya.
Defendants in the mass trial include Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie (pictured above).
Local media reported that the court divided the large group of defendants into two groups, with around 500 defendants to be tried on Saturday, and another 700 to face court next week.
It remains unclear whether many of the accused would appear before the court in person. Judicial sources said more than 200 defendants remain in detention, while others have been bailed, or are on the run.
Crackdown on Morsi supporters
The mass trial is part of a crackdown by the country's military-led authorities targeting Morsi supporters who are calling for his reinstatement as president.
Morsi is Egypt's first elected and civilian president and was removed from office by the army on July 3. His ouster sparked widespread conflict across the country. Morsi is currently on trial in three separate cases, including one where he stands accused of inciting the killing of protestors during his time in office.
Hundreds of his supporters were killed in the crackdowns that followed his ouster.
In December, Egypt's government declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. The group dismisses the claim and says the move is politically motivated and accused authorities of oppression.
jlw/slk (AFP, dpa)