CAIRO - A prominent Egyptian blogger and political activist went on trial on Sunday charged with insulting President Mohamed Mursi, in a case his supporters see as evidence of an escalating crackdown on dissent.

Ahmed Douma is on trial for calling Mursi a criminal and a murderer during recent media interviews. His arrest on April 30 is the latest in several moves against dissidents accused of insulting the president elected last June.

Such cases have triggered criticism from the United States, which provides Egypt with $1.5 billion a year in aid, most of it for the military. It has accused Cairo of trying to silence Mursi's critics. The president says he respects freedom of expression.

Witnesses said 15 truckloads of riot police were deployed near the court in Tanta, 100 km (60 miles) north of Cairo.

The court rejected a request by Douma's lawyers for his release. Khaled Ali, one of the lawyers and a former candidate for the presidency, told the court there was no justification for his client to be kept in detention, Egypt's state news agency reported.

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