Deposed Egypt president Mohamed Morsi said on Wednesday he was kidnapped by the Republican Guard the day before the army announced his removal and was later held at a naval base for four months.
Few details had previously emerged on Morsi's whereabouts since army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew him and announced plans for elections. Lawyer Mohamed Damati read on television what he said was a letter from the Islamist leader, who is still being detained, to the Egyptian people.
For the first time, Morsi indicated he was held against his will as early as July 2, a day before the army announced his removal following mass protests against his rule. "The kind Egyptian people should know that I have been kidnapped forcibly and against my will since July 2 and until July 5 in a Republican Guard house until I and my aide were moved again forcibly to a naval base belonging to the armed forces for four full months," Morsi was quoted as saying.
The Republican Guard is an elite military unit that protects the presidential palace and other government sites. Morsi and other Islamists appeared in court on November 4 on charges of inciting violence in connection with the death of about a dozen protesters at the presidential palace in December. Most were members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The letter marked the first time outside the courtroom that the authorities have allowed Morsi, who accuses the army of staging a coup, to tell his side of the story. "Egypt will not recover until everything that happened due to this coup goes away … and the holding to account those who spilled blood everywhere on the nation's land," Morsi said.
"I salute the Egyptian people who rose up against this coup, which will fall by the power of the Egyptian people in their jihad for the sake of their rights and freedoms."
Security forces have mounted a crackdown against the Brotherhood, which won every election held since a popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested, including the group's leaders.
A court has banned the organisation.
A court has ruled a three-month state of emergency be lifted, a step that may help the army-backed government restore a semblance of normality. But the government moved closer to passing a law on demonstrations that the opposition says could be a new way to curb protests.
The government imposed emergency and nightly curfews on August 14, when security forces forcibly dispersed two Cairo sit-ins by Mursi supporters, touching off the worst domestic bloodshed in Egypt's modern history.
Although Morsi remains defiant, the clampdown has dramatically weakened the Brotherhood, which accuses the government of reviving a police state. The group no longer seems capable of getting huge numbers onto the streets to protest in support of Morsi.
On Wednesday, a police armoured personnel carrier ran over a pro-Morsi student who was protesting outside a state-run university in the southern city of Assiut, a security source said. The incident was filmed and posted on Facebook. The source said he was in hospital in a serious condition. Police fired teargas to disperse the demonstrators.
Western powers want the government to create an inclusive political process to bring stability to Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the strategic Suez Canal. Morsi said that while in detention, he had only met European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, an EU delegation and four prosecutors whose questions he refused to answer.
"What happened is a military coup and for there to be stability and reconciliation in Egypt, the people of Egypt need to take a stand and that this coup is treason and a crime," Morsi said.
Damati said Morsi refused to recognise the court that is trying him at a police academy – the same site where Mubarak is on trial on similar charges. If convicted, Morsi could face a life sentence or the death penalty. – Reuters