In court, defiant Mursi says he still Egypt's president

Reuters

* Mursi says "Down with military rule"

* Mursi charged with inciting violence

* Rights groups say trial seen as test for authorities

* Government warns Brotherhood over protests

By Yasmine Saleh and Yara Bayoumy

CAIRO, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Ousted Egyptian leader MohamedMursi, given his first public forum since his overthrow in atrial where he could face execution, declared on Monday he wasstill Egypt's legitimate president and shouted: "Down withmilitary rule!"

Mursi, an Islamist who was toppled by the army in July aftermass protests against him, spoke with anger and passion,interrupting the first day of his trial repeatedly from his cageduring an unruly hearing that the judge adjourned to Jan. 8.

State television aired brief footage of Mursi, the firstpublic sighting of the president since his overthrow in July.Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president, had been kept inan undisclosed location since then.

"I am Dr. Mohamed Mursi. I am president of the republic,"said Mursi.

Inside the courtroom, anti-Mursi Egyptian journalistschanted "execution", "execution" as the deposed leader did hisbest to challenge the authority of the court, shoutingrepeatedly at the judge whose legitimacy he refused to accept.

"We are in a state, not a (military) camp. Down down withmilitary rule," said Mursi. "I am a witness that what ishappening is a part of a military coup. I ask the Egyptianjudiciary to not act as a cover for the military coup."

The judge repeatedly asked Mursi to stop giving longspeeches. "Please answer the question, do you agree to have alawyer representing you?" judge Ahmed Sabry said.

Opponents of Egypt's army-backed government deride what theycall a "show trial" as part of a campaign to crush Mursi'sMuslim Brotherhood movement and revive the police state of HosniMubarak's 30-year rule that ended in a 2011 popular revolt.

Hundreds of people were killed in the months that followedMursi's overthrow, including many hundreds shot dead by policeand troops who cleared out a weeks-long protest vigil by Mursi'ssupporters. Thousands of followers have been rounded up.

Egypt has become fiercely divided, with state medialionising the military and police for their crackdown on"terrorists", while the Brotherhood, once the country's mostpowerful political force, has retreated to the shadows where itspent more than 80 years as an underground movement.

Mursi, 62, who like many Islamists was also jailed underMubarak, now faces charges of inciting violence that could carrythe death penalty.

It is the second time Egypt has put an ousted president ontrial since 2011, and taking place in the same venue - a policeacademy hall - where Mubarak has faced retrial over hisconviction for complicity in killing protesters.

Mursi and 14 other Islamists face charges of incitingviolence relating to the deaths of about a dozen people inclashes outside the presidential palace in December after Mursienraged his opponents with a decree expanding his powers.

After stepping out of a white van and buttoning his jacket,he appeared in a cage in the courtroom beside other Islamistdefendants, who were in white prison garb. They applauded whenMursi arrived, gave the Brotherhood's four-fingered salute, andat times turned their backs on the court.

"This trial is illegitimate," said Mursi, who was dressed ina dark suit. "This is a criminal military coup."

Hundreds of Mursi's supporters gathered outside the courtbuilding. One sign read: "The people's will has been raped".

SECURITY PRESENCE

Trial proceedings were not aired on state television andjournalists were barred from bringing telephones into thecourtroom. Senior Brotherhood figures among the defendants usedthe chance to tell reporters they had been mistreated.

"I have been kept in my cell for 60 days," Brotherhoodleader Mohamed El-Beltagi told Reuters in the courtroom frominside a cage holding defendants. "I have been held under waterin my cell and this has happened to other members."

Another Islamist in the cage, Alaa Hamza, said he wastortured and lifted his shirt to show reporters what he saidwere torture marks.

After the hearing, Mursi was taken to Borg al-Arab prison inAlexandria.

The military establishment's return to the forefront ofpower prompted Washington to cut some military aid, althoughWashington has not said whether the overthrow was a "coup",language that would require it to halt aid to one of its biggestclients. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Cairo onSunday, expressed guarded optimism about a return to democracy.

The uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011 had raised hopesthat Egypt would embrace democracy and human rights andeventually enjoy economic prosperity.

Instead, the power struggle between the Brotherhood and thearmy-backed establishment has created more uncertainty in thecountry of 85 million which has a peace treaty with Israel andcontrols the Suez Canal. Tourism and investment have collapsed.

INCITING VIOLENCE

The Brotherhood won repeated elections since Mubarak's fall.But millions of Egyptians grew disillusioned with Mursi'stroubled one-year rule and took to the streets to demand hisresignation. They accused Mursi of usurping power andmismanaging the economy, allegations he denied.

"We didn't see as much misery in the 30 years of Mubarak asmuch as we saw in one year of Mursi," said Ali, a driver who wassipping morning tea at a cafe in downtown Cairo.

"He fooled us with his year in power."

The army, saying it was responding to the will of thepeople, deposed Mursi and announced a political road map it saidwould lead to free and fair elections.

But the promises have not reassured Western allies, who hadhoped six decades of rule by military men would be broken. Armychief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Mursi, is very popular,and few doubt he would win if he runs for president.

The Brotherhood maintains Mursi's removal was a coup thatreversed the democratic gains made after Mubarak's overthrow.

Mohamed Damaty, a volunteer defence lawyer for Mursi, said:

"It is clear that the goal of this trial as well as anyaction against the Muslim Brotherhood is to wipe out the groupas well as any Islamist movements from political life."

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