Egyptian prosecutors request death penalty for Morsi

Dozens arrested at anti-government rally in Cairo

Egyptian prosecutors asked for the death penalty for ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and 35 other Muslim Brotherhood figures including its leader Mohammed Badie, on trial facing espionage charges, on 19 November.

The Cairo criminal court heard prosecutor Emad el-Sharawy accuse Morsi and his aides of leaking state security documents to Iranian intelligence agencies and cooperating with militant groups, including Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, to destabilise Egypt.

Morsi told the court that he refused to recognise its jurisdiction and asked to defend himself in upcoming sessions. His closing defence remarks will be heard at the court’s final session, scheduled for 26 November.

The news came as Egyptian security forces arrested over 40 protestors at a rare anti-government rally near Cairo's Tahrir Square on the same day as prosecutors asked for the death penalty for Morsi. The demonstation marked the third anniversary of the killing of 50 protestors on 19 November 2011 in the aftermath of the January uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak that year.

The protest had been planned in defiance of the strict laws against demonstrations ushered in by the incumbent president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who pledged to crush the Brotherhood before taking power in June this year.

His predecessor Morsi has remained in custody since July 2013 when he was ousted by the military, after one year in office, following mass demonstrations accusing him and the Brotherhood of monopolising power. Over the last year and a half Egypt has cracked down severely on the Muslim Brotherhood, declaring it an illegal organisation, freezing its assets and jailing thousands of its members and alleged supporters.

In July the courts handed down the death penalty to a number of senior Brotherhood figures, and sentenced others to life imprisonment.

President al-Sisi is about to set off on his first trip to Europe since taking office.