Morsi's lawyers withdraw from espionage trial over glass cage

During the 50-minute session, the lawyers dismissed the glass cages as

During the 50-minute session, the lawyers dismissed the glass cages as "illegal" because they block communication with the defendants.

By Hazem Badr

CAIRO - Lawyers representing defendants in the trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and others on espionage charges withdrew from the trial hearing on Sunday to protest the placing of decedents inside glass cages.

"We cannot continue in this trial when defendants are isolated from their defense lawyers and cannot hear the court proceedings," chief lawyer Mohamed Selim al-Awa told Anadolu Agency as he walked out of the courtroom.

"The defense team decided to withdraw from the trial until the glass cages are removed," he asserted.

"We would not attend the next session until we are notified that the glass cages had been removed," al-Awa said.

"I cannot defend a man who cannot communicate with me or the judges," al-Awa explained.

Following the lawyers' decision, the presiding judges suspended the Sunday session, adjourning the trial to February 23.

The court also decided to appoint 10 lawyers to defend Morsi in the espionage trial.

Morsi and 35 others are facing accusations of "conspiring" with the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah to carry out "terrorist acts" in Egypt.

The defendants appeared in sound-proof glass cages, which had already been used in other Morsi trials.

The authorities argued that the defendants can hear the proceedings but are only allowed to speak through a microphone controlled by the presiding judges.

During the 50-minute session, the lawyers dismissed the glass cages as "illegal" because they block communication with the defendants.

A defense lawyer was allowed into the cage to test the speakers inside and went out to assert that the voice was barely audible inside the cage.

The court also decided to ask the country's Bar Association to appoint ten lawyers to defend the ex-president and the other defendants in the case.

The request came as the defendants-appointed lawyers decided to withdraw from the trial earlier on the day in protest against placing the defendants inside glass cages.

The walkout of defense lawyers prompted the trial judges to suspend the session.

When the judges resumed the trial, however, there were only two defense lawyers inside the courtroom. The lawyers said they stayed to defend two of Morsi's aides, but the latter refused their defense later.

Prior to the announcement of the lawyers, Morsi slammed the trial as "farce" and asked the defense lawyers to withdraw immediately "if this farce continued."

Other defendants chanted against the Egyptian military, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter attending the trial.

When their request to remove the cages was turned down, the lawyers walked out of the courtroom and said they are withdrawing from the case.

"We cannot continue in this trial when defendants are isolated from their defense lawyers and cannot hear the court proceedings," chief lawyer Mohamed Selim al-Awa told Anadolu Agency as he walked out of the courtroom.

"The defense team decided to withdraw from the trial until the glass cages are removed," he asserted.

"We would not attend the next session until we are notified that the glass cages had been removed.

"I cannot defend a man who cannot communicate with me or the judges."

- Hamas denounces espionage links

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas criticized the trial.

"How come the Egyptian judiciary and government consider a Palestinian resistance group as a hostile entity?" spokesman Hamas Salah Bardawil told Anadolu Agency, in reference to the charges leveled against Morsi.

"Hamas would not interfere in Egypt's affairs but it is concerned with the Egyptian government considering it an enemy," Bardawil asserted, adding that such classification of the group by Egyptian authorities is similar to that of Israel.

Hamas, an ideological offshoot of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group, has been controlling the blockaded Gaza Strip -- which shares borders with Egypt -- since 2007.

(Additional reporting by Mustafa Haboosh)

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