CAIRO — The leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has appeared in court for the first time, facing — along with 14 other leaders of the group — charges of inciting murder during protests this summer.
Mohammed Badie was arrested in August. He already faces charges of inciting violence in earlier protests but had not appeared in court before Monday.
The trial of the Brotherhood leaders is part of a string of prosecutions Egypt's current military-backed administration is carrying out as part of a crackdown on the group since the July 3 coup that removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, himself of the Brotherhood.
Morsi himself is on trial for inciting murder. In Monday's session, Badie denied the charges. The defendants in the cage chanted: "Down with military rule," according to Egypt's state news agency.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Students of an Islamic university in Cairo and supporters of Egypt's ousted president set security vehicles on fire Monday, sending police chasing them into their campus with armored vehicles and tear gas and arresting dozens, the interior ministry said.
It was the second consecutive day of protests by students of Al-Azhar University, who have been holding regular demonstrations since the start of the academic year in September against the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. The rallies have frequently deteriorated into clashes with police.
Sunday's protests were fuelled by the referral to trial of 21 students on charges of rioting and storming the office of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque weeks ago. Just last month, 12 students from the same university were sentenced to 17 years for participating in protests and clashes on the campus.
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood — Egypt's largest Islamist group — has organized regular protests since his overthrow including near daily marches on campuses. Along with other Morsi allies, it continues to oppose the interim government and the military chief who led the popularly backed coup. The Brotherhood demands Morsi's reinstatement and the trial of coup leaders.
In a statement Monday, a Brotherhood-led group hailed student protests at Al-Azhar and elsewhere, calling them the "pulse of the revolution and its mainstay toward deliverance. It called for protests to support them on Tuesday.
The political arm of the Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, accused authorities of waging a "war of annihilation" against Al-Azhar students.
The crackdown on protests is tightening since authorities passed a protest law last month restricting rallies of more than 10 people unless police authorized them in advance.
The law has caused an uproar among activists — secular and Islamist alike — and was criticized by rights groups as a violation to international norms and choking freedom of expression.
Despite the criticism, authorities have defended the law as necessary to restore stability in a country rattled by three years of political turmoil.
In a sign it tolerates no violation of the new law even from non-Islamists, three of Egypt's most prominent secular activists on Sunday were sent to trial for protesting without a permit. Prosecutors referred another 25 activists, including prominent blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, to a separate trial on Monday for demonstrating against the protest law without a permit.
Although shrinking in size, protests by Morsi supporters have continued.
The Interior Ministry, responsible for the police, said about 200 pro-Morsi students had blocked the streets Monday outside Al-Azhar university campus — a major thoroughfare in eastern Cairo, and pelted police with rocks and firebombs, damaging at least three police vehicles and injuring policemen.
Protesters retreated to the campus after police fired tear gas and kept up their rioting there, damaging staff cars and other university properties, the ministry said in its statement.
The head of university security, Mahmoud Subeiha, told Egypt's private CBC TV that he asked the police to enter the campus Monday to put down the protests.
The head of the university, Osama el-Abd told the same station that the protesting students had set some trees on fire and attacked staff. He said that despite the unrest, classes will not be disrupted.
Youssef Salehein, a student leader in Al-Azhar University, said the situation had calmed down by the afternoon, but he still can't account for all his colleagues. He said the police had blocked gates of the universities with armored vehicles and were arresting students from classrooms.
He said he saw at least three students injured by shotgun pellets.
A Brotherhood student organizer speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not on campus but was in touch with other inside said tens of students were injured by shotgun pellets.
He confirmed that the students set a police vehicle on fire, saying the force was chasing students inside the campus to arrest them.
Police spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif told CBC that 58 students were arrested. Abdel-Latif accused the Brotherhood of seeking to destabilize the country, and to derail the political road map in effect since Morsi's ouster.
The first key step on the road map is a referendum on the amendments to the Islamist-drafted constitution, expected within a month.
"They want to create a crisis," Abdel-Latif said of the Brotherhood. "They are trying to provoke the police and residents to create violence."
Authorities have cracked down on Morsi supporters since last summer's coup, widening a net of arrests and legal prosecution to include senior leaders as well as students and protesters.