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Morsi's defamation trial opens in Cairo

The trial of Egypt's former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi on charges of defaming the judiciary has opened in Cairo on Saturday. Co-defendants, Islamists and other secular opposition leaders face the same charges.

The trial for "insulting the judiciary" is the fifth trial for Morsi and the latest in a series of cases involving him.

The trial opening comes a week after another court sentenced Morsi and more than 100 others to death for involvement in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising against the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Former president refuses trial

At the start of the trial Morsi refused to recognize the authority of the court, the online edition of the state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported.

"I totally refuse this trial. This court has no jurisdiction to try me, despite my respect for the court," al-Ahram quoted Morsi as saying.

Morsi has repeatedly insisted in his various trials that he is the rightful president of Egypt.

At Saturday's session, it was not only Morsi who was facing the charges, but also 24 co-defendants, including secular opponents of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and even some al-Sisi supporters and several liberal and secular opposition leaders. The co-defendants stand accused of contempt of court through comments made in speeches, on social media or in interviews, the news agency AFP reported.

Among the defendants is Alaa Abdel Fattah, a top secular activist behind the protests that led to the downfall of Mubarak.

Other defendants in court included Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohammed Beltagy and Saad al-Qatatni.

Morsi separated from other defendants in a metal cage

According to AFP, Morsi was brought to court in the blue prison uniform of a convict, and was separated from the other defendants in the courtroom, standing alone in a metal cage. The seven other defendants in custody appeared in a separate metal cage.

The court said the trial would resume on July 27, the German news agency DPA reports.

Human rights groups accuse the authorities of using the judiciary as a tool to crush all kinds of opposition, including Islamists and seculars, AFP reported.

Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was toppled by army chief al-Sisi in 2013 after mass street protests against his turbulent year in power.

ra/ng (AP, AFP, dpa)

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