CAIRO — Egyptian authorities on Sunday moved the trial of the ousted Islamist president to a new location at another end of the capital, a move apparently aimed at thwarting mass rallies planned by the Muslim Brotherhood in his support when it opens on Monday.
Facing charges of incitement of violence with 14 others in connection to clashes last December, Mohammed Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location since his July 3 overthrow by the military. The trial will be his first public appearance since then, possibly enflaming an already tense political atmosphere as animosity between Morsi's Islamist supporters and Egypt's security establishment steadily deepens.
"For (the Islamists) it will be like taking revenge on the police and the military," said lawyer Khaled Abu-Bakr, representing three victims of the December clashes. "I really hope that no blood is spilled tomorrow," he added.
The change of the venue was announced at a tumultuous news conference by appeals court judge Medhat Idris, who threw his statement in the air and stormed out of the room when Morsi supporters shouted in protest at the change.
He later told The Associated Press by telephone that the trial will not be aired live. Other details about the proceedings, including where Morsi will be held during them, remain secret.
A security official said Morsi will probably be taken back to the place he has been held instead of being transferred to a normal prison after the first session, for fear his supporters would turn the prison into a "focal point of endless protests."
The new venue is a heavily fortified police academy in an eastern Cairo suburb, already used for the trial of another former president — Hosni Mubarak — toppled in a 2011 uprising. He is accused of failing to stop the killing of protesters.
Egypt witnessed one of its worst bouts of violence in decades on Aug. 14, when security forces violently cleared protest camps set up by Morsi supporters, sparking days of unrest that left more than 1,000 dead. Since then, violent incidents have multiplied: a suicide car bomber tried to assassinate Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in September, and dozens of members of the security forces have been killed in a string of drive-by shootings, explosions and car bombs. Churches have been torched, and in an attack in Cairo last month, five Copts and one Muslim were killed in drive-by shooting at a church.