Egypt to put ex-president Mohammed Morsi on trial

Egypt's top prosecutor has referred ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi to trial on charges of inciting the killing of opponents protesting outside his palace while he was in office.

Charges stem from deadly Dec. 5 protest outside his palace

Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected head of state, will go on trial on charges that he incited deadly violence against protesters, the country's state news agency says. (Associated Press)

Ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi will be made to stand trial on charges of inciting the killing of opponents protesting outside his palace while he was in office, the country's state news agency says.

The report said Egypt's top prosecutor announced Sunday that Morsi has been referred to a trial on the charges. 

The military ousted Morsi, the country's first democratically elected head of state, on July 3 after millions took to the street demanding he step down. He's been held incommunicado since. Despite other accusations by prosecutors, Sunday's decision is his first referral to trial. No date was announced for the trial.

Morsi will be tried along with 14 members of his Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, for allegedly committing acts of violence and inciting the killing of at least 10 people.

The case dates back to one of the deadliest bouts of violence during Morsi's one year in office. At least 100,000 protesters gathered outside his presidential palace on Dec. 4, protesting a decree he issued to protect his decisions from judicial oversight and decrying a highly disputed draft constitution that was hurriedly adopted in the Islamist-dominated parliament.

Morsi supporters argue with riot police and army personnel in Cairo earlier this month. (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters)

Protesters demanded he call off a referendum scheduled for days later. The next day, Islamist groups and supporters of Morsi attacked protesters who camped out there, sparking deadly street battles that left at least 10 dead and sending chills among Morsi's opponents that he had relied on organized mobs to defend his palace.

The state news agency said an investigation by prosecutors revealed that Morsi had asked the Republican Guard and the minister in charge of police to break up the sit-in, but they feared a bloody confrontation and declined. The agency said Morsi's aides then summoned their supporters to forcefully break up the sit-in.

Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party deny using violence to quell critics and said supporters were defending the palace. They accused opponents of starting the battles and forcing away police that had been guarding the area.

Those referred to trial with Morsi include the deputy leader of the Brotherhood's political party, Essam el-Erian, who is currently in hiding. They also include leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy, arrested this week, as well as leading pro-Brotherhood youth leaders who were videotaped during the street clashes on the front lines.

Since the coup that removed Morsi from power, authorities have waged an intensive security crackdown on members of his group. That crackdown followed a violent breakup, in which hundreds were killed, of a weeks-long sit-in held by Morsi supporters demanding his reinstatement.