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Facing new charges, Egypt's Morsy taunts court from glass cage

From Sarah Sirgany and Matt Smith, CNN
February 16, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Those who fear his appearance "have no public support," Morsy declares
  • Defense lawyers object to the placement of soundproof glass where defendants stand
  • Morsy became president in 2012, but was deposed in a military coup one year later
  • His supporters say the military has returned to the authoritarian practices of Hosni Mubarak

(CNN) -- Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy on Sunday taunted court officials who placed him in a soundproof glass box during his trial on conspiracy charges, a proceeding cut short by his lawyers' objections.

"If this farce continues, leave the trial," Morsy told his lawyers through a microphone. "Those who are afraid of my appearance before the people have no public support," he added.

Morsy, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was toppled in a military coup in July and faces trial on a variety of charges -- the most recent being allegations that he spied for an unnamed foreign power.

Sunday's session marked the second time he was placed in a glass enclosure. When he was hauled into court along with nearly three dozen co-defendants, his lawyers complained the soundproof enclosure hindered their ability to communicate with their client.

"The glass dock is to humiliate the defendants," said Mohamed Selim El-Awa, his lead attorney. "This is unprecedented in the world."

El-Awa told CNN that the defendants can't hear inside the glass-enclosed dock and that presiding Judge Shaaban el-Shamy isn't the only one controlling the sound. The judge refused requests to discuss this issue in private, making it impossible for the lawyers to do their job, he said.

Clashes erupt at Egypt protests

And Ahmed Morsy, the ex-leader's son, said, "This is what the coup authorities want."

With defense lawyers refusing to participate, proceedings were adjourned until February 23. The judge threatened to appoint new lawyers, and the defense attorneys appeared divided over whether they should return.

El-Awa said the withdrawal would remain in effect until the glass barrier is removed.

"What is important is that I haven't gone against my conscience," El-Awa said.

But defense spokesman Mohamed El Damaty said that given the court's threat to appoint new attorneys, Morsy's lawyers may have to submit to the "bitter reality" and continue their defense in later sessions.

The trial is one of several that Morsy is facing amid Egypt's seesaw power struggles. The latest charges against him include spying for foreign organizations outside Egypt, committing terrorist acts inside the country, disclosing classified defense information to a foreign country and funding terrorism.

He already has been charged with inciting the killings of political opponents and organizing a 2011 jailbreak by members of his then-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Morsy, the former head of the Brotherhood's political arm, won office in 2012. Shortly after he was elected, he resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party in an effort to show he would represent all Egyptians.

But he was ousted in a coup about a year later amid widespread protests against his rule, with opponents accusing him of pursuing an Islamist agenda and excluding other factions from the government.

Morsy and other Brotherhood leaders were rounded up after the coup and now face a variety of counts, including organizing attacks on Egyptian troops in the Sinai Peninsula and fueling "sectarian sedition with the aim of igniting civil war in Egypt."

The Brotherhood had long been suppressed during the 29-year rule of former strongman Hosni Mubarak. But it became the most powerful political force in Egypt after the popular revolt that toppled Mubarak in 2011. Supporters say the military-backed government that replaced Morsy has returned to the authoritarian practices of Mubarak.

CNN's Yousuf Basil and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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