Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, goes on trial on Monday under a security crackdown that has devastated his Muslim Brotherhood movement and raised concerns that the army-backed government is reimposing a police state.
A popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 raised hopes that Egyptians would break the military establishment’s longstanding grip on power.
But the world’s most populous Arab nation has faltered in its political transition, and the generals are back in charge, to the dismay of Cairo’s Western allies who were hoping Egypt’s experiment with democracy would be smooth.
Morsi, who was ousted by the army on July 3 after mass protests against his rule, is due to appear in court along with 14 other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures on charges of inciting violence.
He and the other defendants could face a life sentence or death penalty if found guilty. That would likely further inflame tensions between the Brotherhood and the army-backed government and deepen the political instability that has decimated investment and tourism in a country where a quarter of people live under the poverty line.
When the military ousted Morsi, it promised a political roadmap would lead to free and fair elections.
What followed was one of the harshest clampdowns ever mounted against the Brotherhood, which is now struggling to survive after enduring state repression for decades.
In August, riot police backed by army snipers crushed Cairo protest camps demanding the reinstatement of Morsi, a US-trained engineer.
Security officials accuse Brotherhood leaders of inciting violence and terrorism. Hundreds of the movement’s members have been killed and many of its leaders jailed.
The Brotherhood denies any links with violent activity.
Kerry in Egypt on first visit since Morsi ouster
CAIRO: US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo on Sunday pressing for reforms during the highest-level American visit to Egypt since the ouster of the country's first democratically elected president. The Egyptian military's removal of Mohammed Morsi in July followed by a harsh crackdown on his protesting supporters led the U.S. to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. The State Department apparently expected a frosty reception for Kerry, especially with tensions running high on the eve of Monday's scheduled start of Morsi's trial on charges of inciting murder. The department refused to confirm Kerry's visit until he landed in Cairo, even though Egypt's official news agency reported the impending trip three days earlier. The secrecy was unprecedented for a secretary of