Prosecution witnesses in the jailbreak trial of Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday accused members of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah of attacking Egyptian prisons during the 2011 uprising.
The trial, one of three against Morsi, is part of a government crackdown that has targeted him and his Muslim Brotherhood movement since his ouster by the army in July.
In the jailbreak case, Morsi and 130 other defendants including Palestinian and Lebanese militants are charged with organizing attempts to spring prisoners from jails and attacking police stations during the uprising that ousted longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The prosecution presented three witnesses in Wednesday’s hearing, two of whom described how jails were attacked during the uprising, before the trial was postponed until April 30.
Morsi, dressed in white prison uniform, appeared in a caged dock as his co-defendants sat with their backs to the judges in a separate enclosure, an AFP journalist said.
Former interior minister Mahmoud Wagdi told the court members of “Hamas, [Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine] al-Qassam Brigades, (Palestinian Islamists) the Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah … entered Egypt through the border with the Gaza Strip helped by Bedouins from Sinai” on January 28, 2011.
Wagdi was named interior minister three days after the militants are alleged to have entered Egypt.
He said that after crossing the border, they “destroyed” several police installations in the Sinai, before attacking “the prisons of Abu Zaabal, Al-Marg and Wadi Natrun that had political elements from Hamas and Hezbollah,” Wagdi said.
Prosecutors charge the attacks on police stations and the jailbreaks, in which Morsi and other political prisoners escaped, were a Muslim Brotherhood-led conspiracy aimed at sowing chaos during the 2011 revolt.
Nearly 850 people died during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, most of them on January 28, 2011, when protesters battled police.
At Wednesday’s hearing, prosecution’s other witness Atef Sherif Abdel Salam, who was prison chief at the time, said the prisons were attacked by “elements from Sinai Bedouins”.
“The prisons where the jailbreak succeeded were prisons that had political elements in them,” he said.
“The first prison to be attacked was the Abu Zaabal prison at 10 in the morning on January 29 … it had elements from Al-Qaeda and Sinai Bedouins.”
He said the authorities later found “spent ammunition … that was not used by Egyptian police or military” at Abu Zabaal prison.
Abdel Salam also said Wadi Natrum jail had around 30 leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood when it came under attack.
Morsi is also on trial over the killing of protesters during his presidency, and in an espionage trial where he is accused of conspiring with foreign powers, Hamas and Shiite Iran to destabilize Egypt.
A government crackdown targeting Morsi and his supporters has killed more than 1,400 people and jailed thousands.