Egypt's Mursi faces Feb 16 spy trial: judicial sources

CAIRO (AFP) - The trial of Egypt's deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi and 35 others on charges of espionage in collaboration with Palestinian Hamas movement will start on February 16, judicial sources said on Tuesday.

It is the third Mursi trial for which a date has been fixed and is part of a relentless government crackdown on the ousted leader and his Islamist supporters since his July 3 ouster by the army.

If found guilty, the defendants could face the death penalty.

Mursi and others including former aides and leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood have been accused of launching a "terrorist" campaign inside Egypt in collaboration with the Islamist movement Hamas and jihadists, the sources said.

They are accused "of spying for the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, its military wing and Hamas movement, and carrying out terror attacks inside the country against state property, institutions and their employees to spread chaos", state news agency MENA said.

It said the defendants have also been charged with carrying out terror attacks in collaboration with Lebanon's Shiite militant movement Hezbollah and the elite Revolutionary Guards of Iran.

Mursi, toppled by the military after a single year of turbulent rule, is already on trial for his alleged involvement in the killing of opposition protesters during his presidency.

A second trial on jailbreak charges during the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak is set to start on Jan 28.

He is also to be tried separately for "insulting the judiciary". A date for that has yet to be set.

Egyptian authorities had been probing Mursi's alleged links to Hamas during mass jailbreaks in the 2011 uprising, when he and other Islamist prisoners escaped.

The spy trial will also see Brotherhood's supreme guide Mohamed Badie and other top Islamist leaders of the movement in the dock.

The spy trial against Mursi and his co-defendants is the culmination of accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind violence in Egypt over several years.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is the Palestinian affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It condemned Egypt's military-installed government's move in December to designate the Brotherhood as a "terrorist organisation".

During Morsi's short-lived presidency, ties between Hamas and Cairo had flourished.

But since July, Egypt's military has destroyed several hundreds of tunnels used to ferry crucial supplies, including fuel, into the blockaded Strip.

The Brotherhood is facing a relentless crackdown from Egypt's government, which has left more than 1,000 people, mostly supporters of Mursi, killed since July, and thousands more arrested.

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