Mohamed Morsi gives a press conference in Cairo on June 13, 2012 during the presidential election campaign
Mohamed Morsi gives a press conference in Cairo on June 13, 2012 during the presidential election campaign © Khaled Desouki - AFP
Mohamed Morsi gives a press conference in Cairo on June 13, 2012 during the presidential election campaign
Jay Deshmukh, AFP
Last updated: November 4, 2013

Egypt's Morsi: from palace to prison

Mohamed Morsi, who was catapulted from the Muslim Brotherhood's underground offices to Egypt's presidency, went on trial Monday for the killing of protesters, four months after his dramatic overthrow.

It was Morsi's first public appearance since the army deposed the country's democratically-elected president on July 3 following a stormy single year of rule.

Remaining defiant since his incarceration, Morsi has rejected the authority of the court to try him, as his supporters insist he is still the legitimate president of the Arab world's most populous nation.

Morsi and his 14 co-defendants face charges of inciting the murder of protesters during clashes between his supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in December 2012, when seven people were killed.

The trial comes on the heels of a bloody crackdown by Egypt's military-installed authorities against Morsi's Islamist supporters.

Hundreds were killed in clashes that erupted when security forces dispersed two pro-Morsi camps in August and at least 2,000 people, including the Muslim Brotherhood's top leadership, have been rounded up in the clampdown.

No stranger to prison, Morsi lived a largely clandestine existence through three decades of authoritarian rule by his ousted predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, when the Brotherhood was officially banned.

Before the end of the Mubarak era, he was arrested again on January 28, 2011, the day after the Brotherhood threw its weight behind the protests which led to the fall of the veteran strongman.

He was then among dozens of Islamist prisoners sprung from jails around Egypt as public order collapsed during the anti-Mubarak revolution.

He had already served seven months in 2006 for taking part in a demonstration in support of reformist judges.

Morsi was not the Brotherhood's first choice for president.

He was put forward after one of the movement's powerful financiers, Khairat al-Shater, was disqualified on technical grounds, earning him the nickname "the spare wheel."

He was sworn in in June 2012 after winning the presidential election by a sliver, with many choosing him in a protest vote against former air force chief and Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

Morsi, whose predecessors as president have all been generals, failed to maintain Egyptians' unity following the uprising.

Critics accused him of concentrating too much power in the hands of the Brotherhood.

His one-year rule was marred by deep polarisation, insecurity, unrest and a crippling economic crisis.

In the last public remarks before his ouster, he acknowledged "many mistakes" which needed "to be corrected" but insisted he was chosen in a "free and fair election".

His words fell on deaf ears.

Millions took to the streets on June 30 in response to a grassroots campaign accusing him of breaking his promise to be a "president for all Egyptians" and of failing the ideals of the 2011 revolution.

From a rapturous reception given by adoring crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square when he was feted as a revolutionary champion in 2012, Morsi came to be disliked by millions.

Morsi was born in the village of El-Adwah in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya in 1951, and had been the spokesman of the Brotherhood from 2010.

He graduated with an engineering degree from Cairo University in 1975 and received a doctorate from the University of Southern California, where he was also an assistant professor in 1982.

Married with five children and three grandchildren, Morsi first entered the political arena in 2000 when he was elected to parliament as an independent because of the Mubarak-era ban on the Brotherhood.

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