CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian activist charged with insulting the president will remain in detention until June 3, when a verdict is expected, his lawyer said Monday.
Ahmed Douma is the first prominent critic of President Mohammed Morsi to be tried on this charge, though many others have been detained. He is also accused of disturbing the peace. His lawyers said the charges can carry a prison sentence of up to two years.
He was detained after calling Morsi a criminal following bloody clashes earlier this year.
Lawyer Sameh Ashour, who heads the lawyers' union in Egypt, told the judges Douma's comments fell within his right to freely express his opinion and should not be considered a criminal offense.
The judges did not explain why the ordered Douma held in jail. His lawyers charged the decision was political. "This continued detention is itself a punishment," lawyer Ali Suleiman told The Associated Press.
In an interview on a private TV station in February, Douma blamed Morsi for a security crackdown on protesters in the coastal city of Port Said that left 40 people dead.
He also held Morsi responsible for an attack by Islamist Muslim Brotherhood members in December on a sit-in by protesters outside Morsi's office that killed 10.
Douma called Morsi a criminal who lost his legitimacy after blood was shed under his rule.
"I don't see a president ruling Egypt. I see someone called Mohammed Morsi, a criminal evading justice, who is hiding in the presidential palace," Douma said.
He was detained April 30 following a complaint by a member of the Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
Morsi's government accuses opponents of fueling unrest to undermine his rule. The opposition has been critical of Morsi for failing to reach consensus on critical issues, accusing him and his Islamist backers of monopolizing power.
At least three other well-known activists are facing trial or investigation on charges of inciting violence. A TV satirist was questioned for allegedly insulting Morsi.
The Front for the Defense of Egyptian Protesters, a group of lawyers following legal prosecution of activists, said Sunday that more than 2,300 protesters and activists are either detained or are facing trials since January, most of them for staging anti-government protests, some of which turned violent.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information center said in a recent report that the number of court cases and complaints involving charges of insulting the president during Morsi's 10 months in power is four times the number filed during Mubarak's rule of nearly 30 years.
The state news agency said at the court session, police clashed with Douma's supporters and lawyers.
At the hearing, Douma flashed a V-for-victory sign to the cameras. He was also photographed behind bars endorsing a petition against Morsi calling for early presidential elections.