Military ruler to testify in Mubarak trial

Police officer accused of perjury over orders to shoot protesters.

By OREN KESSLER, REUTERS
September 8, 2011 06:30
3 minute read.
Egypt's Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi

Tantawi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The head of Egypt’s ruling military council will testify in a closed session next week to a court that is trying ousted president Hosni Mubarak over charges of conspiring to kill protesters, Judge Ahmed Refaat said on Wednesday.

In addition to Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Enan will also give testimony on September 12 behind closed doors for national security reasons, the judge said.

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Mubarak’s former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who also briefly served as vice president, and Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy would also testify next week, the judge said.

Lawyer Mohamed Damati also asked for testimonies from Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s intelligence chief, who was also briefly vice president, and the former president’s wife, Suzanne.

On Wednesday, prosecutors accused a police officer of giving false testimony in an often heated court session. Lawyers acting for families of some of the 850 people killed in the uprising that ousted the Egyptian president have complained that some police witnesses changed their accounts and accused the prosecution of failing to build a strong case.

Outside the court, protesters also voiced frustration at the witness accounts. Many Egyptians say police used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to try to quash protests.

“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?” There was a heavy police presence outside the court on the outskirts of Cairo, but no repeat of the scuffles and stone-throwing that erupted between Mubarak’s supporters and opponents there during the previous sessions.

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.

Police witnesses in Monday’s session had suggested neither the former president nor his former interior minister, Habib al-Adli, who is also on trial, gave any orders to shoot, and one officer on Wednesday told the court that the police was instructed not to take its guns to protests.

Prosecutors said police officer Muhammad 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,” said Abdel Hakim.

Refaat said Hakim would be held in a separate room pending a decision on his testimony.

When he was removed, 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 defendants’ cage where Mubarak is being held and asked defendants if they had comments. Mubarak responded: “No, I have no comment.”

The judge suspended proceedings at one point to restore calm and also defended the work of the prosecution against criticism from lawyers acting for victims’ families.

“They are men of law and justice. They must be respected.

They have done great work in investigating this case,” he said.

A top police officer told the court on Monday he was not aware of any order to fire on protesters, although he said police were given live ammunition to protect the Interior Ministry. Gen. Hussein Saeed Mohamed Moussa, in charge of communications for state security, said he believed the decision to issue arms was taken by a senior police officer, Ahmed Ramzi.

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

Alaa 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.”

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