Egypt court to hear testimony from Egypt


The head of Egypt’s ruling military council and other top officials were yesterday summoned to give testimony in the trial of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak is accused of killing protestors in January.

Field Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defence minister for 20 years and now leader of the army council, and others will give their testimony behind closed doors, a move that may not please Egyptians who have demanded a transparent trial.

The judge said the court that has convened four times since August 3 would meet on a daily basis, accelerating the trial of Mubarak who is charged with conspiring to kill protesters and inciting some officers to use live ammunition.

Judge Ahmed Refaat stunned the court at the end of Wednesday’s session by calling as witnesses Tantawi, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sami Enan, Mubarak’s former intelligence chief and briefly vice president Omar Suleiman and Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy. Tantawi will testify on September 11.
“I don’t want to hear a sound until I am done with reading the decisions,” he told the court before making the announcement. There were gasps and whispers as he read each name.
“Now it’s started,” one stunned court police officer said in hushed tones as the judge spoke.

Many opponents of Mubarak, who has attended each session lying on a stretcher after being hospitalised in April, have been frustrated by the pace and progress of the trial after about 850 people were killed in the uprising.

Refaat said the officials would testify behind closed doors due to national security and banned publication of testimonies.

Police witnesses called by the prosecution have suggested that neither Mubarak nor his former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli gave orders to shoot. Two witnesses said they were told to show “self restraint”.

Mubarak, who was driven from office after three decades in power on February 11, is the first Arab leader to stand trial in person since unrest erupted across the Middle East this year.
“The meaning of what happened today is that Egypt has become a state where the law reigns. This is history in all terms of the word. For the judge to summon this high-level list of witnesses and in one week has never happened in any state in the world,” said Khaled Abu Bakr, representing families’ of victims.


Some Egyptians accepted the need for secrecy over high-level testimonies. But others were disappointed, including Ayman Nour, who ran and lost against Mubarak in Egypt’s only multi-candidate presidential election in 2005 and was later jailed.
“I don’t think that the press ban is beneficial … as it will lead to more confusion among the public and will open the door to speculation about what happened in … testimonies that are crucial to the case,” he said.

The judge overturned a request on Wednesday by the prosecution to charge one police witness with giving false testimony after they said he had changed an earlier account.

Prosecutors said that police officer Mohamed Abdel Hakim had initially told the prosecution during their probe that he was given 300 shotgun cartridges, but in court he denied this.
“The guns were not allowed to be with the unit. The instructions were for officers not even to take their personal guns,” Abdel Hakim told the court.

When Abdel Hakim left the court, where the session often became heated, one lawyer shouted after him: “You liar, you liar. You have been paid. This is the blood of your brother.”

The judge looked to the cage and asked defendants if they had comments. Mubarak responded: “No I have no comment”.

Essam el-Betawi, a defence lawyer for Adli, said: “I believe the prosecution were shocked today because all the prosecution witnesses that they had gathered have turned into witnesses of denial (of the charges). This is a huge blow to the case.”

There was no repeat on Wednesday of the scuffles between Mubarak’s opponents and supporters outside the court that accompanied others sessions. But some protesters still gathered.
“My friend dropped dead in Tahrir Square right next to me. He was shot in the head by the police,” said Rabia al-Sheikh outside the court. “Why don’t they let us inside to testify. Why are they calling on police to testify and not the people?”

One of Wednesday’s witnesses was an officer who quit the force in 2004, Tarek Abdel Monem, who described being injured by a shotgun on a bridge near Tahrir Square, the focus of the protests. He said a man next to him died.

A top police officer told the court at an earlier session on Monday that he was not aware of any order to fire on protesters, but he said police were given live ammunition to protect the Interior Ministry.

General Hussein Saeed Mohamed Moussa, in charge of communications for state security, said he believed the decision to issue arms was taken by senior officer Ahmed Ramzi.

Ramzi is one of six officers on trial with the former interior minister, the ex-president and Mubarak’s two sons.

Alaa, Mubarak’s eldest son, shook his head inside the cage at one point when a lawyer acting for victims’ families tearfully addressed the court saying: “Mubarak was the worst president Egypt has ever seen.”