Some 20,000 police officers and soldiers will guard the upcoming trial of Egypt's toppled president, an official said Thursday, as Islamist opponents plan massive protests that may spark more turmoil in the country.
An interior ministry official warned that any protesters attempting to break into the courtroom where ousted president Mohamed Morsi will be tried will be met "decisively with force."
The stark warning came as a Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition called Thursday for mass demonstrations across the country starting Friday until 4 November, set as the opening day of Morsi's trial.
Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, faces charges of inciting murder and violence in connection to deadly clashes presidential palace in December. He's been held at an undisclosed location since his ouster in July, following mass protests calling for his step-down.
It is not yet clear if the 62-year-old Morsi will appear in court, though the interior ministry official said that the ousted president will be flown by helicopter to the court. The trial will be held inside a police institute near the Torah prison complex in southern Cairo, where most of the group's arrested leaders are held, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorised to speak publicly about security arrangements for Morsi's trial.
It's not clear whether Morsi will return to the undisclosed location or join other detained Muslim Brotherhood members in Tora prison.
Some fear the trial will mark a new cycle of turmoil in Egypt. In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition described the trial as "illusionary" and said it would hold authorities responsible for any "harm" that comes to Morsi.
"We have seen in the era of the coup those committing the crime are the ones who are presenting President Mohammed Morsi to be tried," the statement read.
Morsi's trial is part of efforts by the interim government to break the Muslim Brotherhood. Nearly 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested since Morsi's ouster, while top leaders face criminal charges. Meanwhile, authorities are pushing to quickly amend the country's constitution and hold parliamentary and presidential elections by early next year to cement their legitimacy.
Egyptians already have seen former President Hosni Mubarak — overthrown in popular uprising in 2011 — on trial.
The security crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood saw security forces violently clear protest camps in Cairo, leaving hundreds dead and sparking weeks of unrest.
Many fear that the violence will start again as Morsi goes on trial, especially with the heavy security cordon planned and the possibility of protesters clashing with police.
The interior ministry official said that security forces will be deployed on the streets starting Saturday, two days before the trial. He said they will close all entrances to the trial site, while "combat teams" will be on rooftops surrounding Torah prison "to abort any plots by the Muslim Brotherhood to foil the trial."
During Egypt's 18-day uprising in 2011, protesters accused police of shooting at them from rooftops.
"Any attempt to smuggle prisoners, storm the courtroom or get near Torah prisons ... will be dealt with decisively, with force and by law," he said.