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Egypt: Mursi's legal team to challenge court's jurisdiction - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This image made from video provided by Egypt's Interior Ministry shows ousted President Mohammed Mursi, right, speaking from the defendant's cage as he stands with co-defendants in a makeshift courtroom during a trial hearing in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 3, 2013. (AP)

This image made from video provided by Egypt’s interior ministry shows ousted President Mohammed Mursi, right, speaking from the defendant’s cage as he stands with co-defendants in a makeshift courtroom during a trial hearing in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday, November 3, 2013. (AP)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a spokesman for Mohamed Mursi’s legal defense team, Mohamed El-Damati, said the deposed Egyptian president will most likely seek to officially appoint former presidential candidate Mohamed Salim Al-Awa to defend him in court.

The deposed Egyptian president appeared in court on Monday for the first time, during which time he refused to answer any questions, simply stating that he remains the legitimate president and that he refuses to recognize the court’s authority.

Awa, heading a defense team including former prime minister Hisham Qandil, presented himself to the court as Mursi’s defense attorney on Monday, only for Mursi to refuse on the basis that any such appointment represents a tacit admission of the court’s legitimacy. Under Egyptian law, if a defendant refuses to select his or her own criminal defense lawyer, the court must appoint one on his or her behalf.

Damati told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Dr. Mohamed Mursi will necessarily accept the appointment of a lawyer to defend him at the next court session because in the event that he does not accept thi,s the court will be forced to appoint a special defense lawyer on his behalf,” adding, “Most likely, he will appoint Mohamed Salim Al-Awa.”

Mursi is being tried along with a number of other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, including Essam El-Erian and Mohamed El-Baltagy, on charges of murder, attempted murder, and inciting violence. All 14 defendants are being represented by the same legal defense team.

Damati confirmed that “Mursi is a man who remains convinced that he is the legitimate president of Egypt, and we are with him. When we defend him; we will defend him from the standpoint that he remains the country’s legitimate president and that what happened was a military coup with all the political and legal ramifications.”

Regarding the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the trial, the defense spokesman said: “We are men of the law and we will work to consolidate the idea that Mursi is the legitimate president and that there has been a military coup, and that as president he should not be tried according to these procedures. All of this will be backed up with constitutional and legal precedent under the 2012 constitution, which was passed in a general referendum.”

“This will be the basis of our defense, and this is a legal, not political, defense. It is the right of any defendant to cite the court’s lack of jurisdiction,” he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s legal defense spokesman denied that the timing of the next court session, scheduled for January 8, was political. “The timing is not political; this is a logical date to start the court case. The second court session will not see Mursi issue a plea, but will see the legal teams put forward requests for witnesses,” he said.

“The defense team will develop a plan after we meet with Dr. Mohamed Mursi in Burj Al-Arab prison next week. We will discuss the details of the case with him and put forward our ideas,” Damati added.

As for the former president’s mindset, he told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The defense team met with Dr. Mohamed Mursi in chambers and he appeared steadfast and strong and believes that he is in the right. He confirmed to us that he does not recognize the court and that if any crimes did occur, he must be held to account [under the terms of] the constitution.”

“We affirmed that the majority of the Egyptian people support him and are aware that what happened during the June 30 protests was a military coup against him,” Damati said.