CAIRO — Three top officials of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood will go on trial Aug. 25, on charges of inciting members of their group to kill rioters in front of its headquarters during the upheaval that led to President Mohammed Morsi's ouster on July 3, a Cairo court ruled on Sunday.
Although the authorities have detained dozens of Brotherhood members since Morsi's fall from power, the case against the group's spiritual leader, his deputy and another key figure is the first to be scheduled for trial.
The pending prosecutions are a new blow to the Brotherhood, which emerged as the country's strongest political movement after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but has seen all of its newfound power stripped away in a matter of weeks.
The scheduling of the trial will most likely further complicate intensive political and diplomatic efforts to persuade Morsi's supporters to break up two large sit-ins in Cairo that they have committed to maintaining until he is restored to power.
Egypt's new military-backed government has said it would not let the sit-ins continue indefinitely, but many fear that efforts to forcefully disperse the protesters would unleash new violence. Envoys from the European Union, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have tried to help broker a solution.
The prosecutions could be an effort to put more pressure on the group to strike a deal to end the current crisis, said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center.
The case concerns events during the final days of Morsi's tenure, when hundreds of rioters attacked the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo and tried to burn those inside alive.
Police officers in the area during the attack did not intervene, and a few men inside the darkened building fired guns from the windows. Health officials said eight people were killed outside the building.
Accused of incitement to murder are the Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohammed Badie; his deputy, Khairat el-Shater; and a third official, Mohammed Bayoumi. Badie is at large
Three other defendants have been charged with murder and arms possession, and an additional 29 people have been accused of using force, terrifying residents and attacking a police officer, state news media reported.