The lawyer representing ousted president Mohamed Morsi and 35 other Muslim Brotherhood figures in Sunday's trial for espionage charges has withdrawn his defence team, prompting the court to appoint 10 new lawyers and postpone the trial until 23 February.
Head of Morsi's defence team Selim El-Awa said that he objected to the soundproof glass boxes in which the ousted president and the other defendants have been forced to remain inside during all courtroom proceedings.
The beginning of Sunday's court session saw Morsi and many of the other defendants chanting slogans against "military rule." They also chanted Egypt's national anthem.
The glass boxes were installed so as to prevent Morsi and other Brotherhood figures from disrupting the various trials they currently face, as they have done repeatedly since their first court appearances last year.
Members of the defence team have been inserted inside the glass boxes, as per court orders, to ensure the defendants are able to hear the trial's proceedings. However, the defence has said that the trial was nearly inaudible from inside Morsi's box and completely blocked out in the boxes for other defendants.
El-Awa told Ahram Online that his defence team will not attend any future court sessions unless the glass boxes are removed.
After El-Awa's decision, the court announced that it will appoint 10 new lawyers for Morsi and the defendants so that the trial can resume.
However, a defence lawyer in the case, Hussein Farouq, told Ahram Online that this decision would invalidate the trial, as Morsi and the other defendants have only authorized El-Sawa's team to represent them.
Morsi and the 35 Brotherhood figures stand accused of collaborating with foreign organisations to commit acts of terrorism in Egypt, revealing defence secrets to a foreign country, funding terrorists and organising military training "to achieve the purposes of the international organisation of the Brotherhood," according to a statement from the prosecution.
The prosecution specifically accuses the Brotherhood members of collaborating with the Gaza-based Hamas group, the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah and other organisations "inside and outside" of Egypt to smuggle arms, organise military training for group members in the Gaza Strip and fund a scheme to stir chaos and threaten national security in Egypt.
Morsi's former presidential aides, including his national security advisor Essam El-Haddad, are accused of divulging secret reports to the Brotherhood's international wings, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in return for their cooperation in terrorist operations.
The charges against the defendants span the period from 2005 to 2013.
The defendants include Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, former speaker of parliament Mohamed El-Katatni and Ahmed Abdel-Ati, ex-head of Morsi's presidential office.
Nineteen of the defendants, including Morsi, are already behind bars. The public prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for the remaining 17.
By El-Sayed Gamal El-Din
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