* Muslim Brotherhood vow to protest over trial
* Mursi to face trial on charges of inciting violence
* Rights groups say trial seen as test for authorities
* Government warns Brotherhood over protests
By Yara Bayoumy
CAIRO, Nov 4 The first freely elected Egyptian
president, Mohamed Mursi, goes on trial on Monday, the second
time in just over two years that a deposed president has found
himself in court in Egypt, a pivotal Arab nation some fear is
sliding back into autocratic rule.
The trial raises the fear of deepening instability in the
Arab world's most populous country, as Mursi's Muslim
Brotherhood has said it would defy a security crackdown and
press on with street protests to pressure the army, which
toppled Mursi on July 3, to reinstate him.
A popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011 raised
hopes that Egypt would embrace democracy and eventually enjoy
Instead, the struggle between the Brotherhood and the
army-backed government has created deep uncertainty.
The trial of Mursi and 14 other Brotherhood officials is
likely to be the next flashpoint in their confrontation.
They face charges of inciting violence relating to the
deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the
presidential palace in December after Mursi enraged his
opponents with a decree expanding his powers.
The Brotherhood had won every election since Mubarak's fall
and eventually propelled Mursi into power after the Islamist
movement endured repression under one dictator after another.
But millions of Egyptians who grew disillusioned with
Mursi's troubled one-year rule took to the streets this summer
to demand his resignation.
The army, saying it was responding to the will of the
people, deposed him and announced a political roadmap it said
would lead to free and fair elections.
But the promises have not reassured Egypt's Western allies,
who had hoped the stranglehold of Egyptian military men would be
Mursi is due to appear in court at the same Cairo police
academy where his autocratic predecessor Mubarak also faces
trial. The defendants could face a life sentence or death
penalty if found guilty.
On the eve of Mursi's trial, Egypt's Al Watan newspaper
released a video on its website of what it said was him speaking
to unidentified individuals during his incarceration.
Dressed in a tracksuit, Mursi described his ouster as "a
crime in every way". The newspaper did not say when the video
The Brotherhood has called on its supporters to stage mass
protests on Monday, but the size of their demonstrations has
shrunk dramatically in the face of an onslaught by security
Riot police crushed two-Mursi protest camps on Aug. 14, and
hundreds of Islamists have been killed and thousands arrested,
including the Brotherhood's top leaders.
Egypt's oldest and most influential Islamist group has also
been banned and its funds seized. Army chief Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi, who toppled Mursi, has become immensely popular. Few
doubt he would win if he runs for president.
The Brotherhood, which is in disarray, has released a
succession of statements urging millions of Egyptians to take to
the streets to express support for Mursi. Few heed the call.
"We have faith that the heroic Egyptian people will not let
go of their freedom, dignity and value and will instead crawl to
the unfair farce of a trial to show the world they are a people
... who will never yield their commitment and legitimacy," the
Brotherhood said in a statement.
Speaking to a local television channel, Interior Minister
Mohamed Ibrahim issued a stern warning to the group:
"If the Brotherhood commit any violations, they will regret
MOTIVES BEHIND THE TRIAL
The Brotherhood maintains Mursi's ouster was a coup that
reversed the democratic gains made after Mubarak's overthrow.
Human rights groups believe the trial will be a key
indicator of whether Egypt will return to democracy or accept
domination by the generals once again.
"Tomorrow's trial is a test for the Egyptian authorities.
They should present Mohamed Mursi in court and grant him a fair
trial, including the right to challenge the evidence against him
in court," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's
Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"Failing to do so would further call into question the
motives behind his trial," she said, emphasising that the trial
cannot proceed without Mursi's presence in court.
In the most senior visit to Cairo by a U.S. official since
Mursi's fall, Secretary of State John Kerry also called for a
fair, transparent trial for all Egyptians.
Egyptian officials admit the path to democracy has been
rocky, but say a proper democratic transformation will take
Speaking to Reuters by phone, Osama Mursi, the deposed
president's 30-year-old son, said his father had not authorised
a defence lawyer and the family would not be attending the
"We do not acknowledge the trial. We are proud of my father
and feel strong about his position."