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The nephew of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who is on trial for claiming that military commanders were behind his uncle's 1981 assassination, accused the ruling party on Wednesday of prosecuting him because of his vocal opposition to the government.
Talaat Sadat, a 52-year-old lawmaker, is on trial before a military court on charges of "spreading false rumors and insulting the armed forces." Sadat - whose parliamentary immunity was quickly stripped soon after he made the comments, opening the door for the trial - has pleaded innocent to the charges, which hold a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
As he headed into his trial's third session, Sadat told reporters outside the court Wednesday that the ruling National Democratic Party and some Cabinet members, particularly the interior minister, were targeting him because of his criticism of the government.
"This is a dictatorial regime," Sadat said. "The whole issue is ... there is political enmity between me and the minister of interior because this man is terrorizing the people of Egypt." About 50 supporters gathered around him as he pulled up in a black Cadillac that aides said was once owned by President Sadat.
Anwar Sadat was shot dead by Islamic terrorists in the Egyptian army during a military parade in Cairo on October 6, 1981. The soldiers were opposed to Sadat's landmark peace treaty with Israel of 1979.
In an interview with a Saudi television channel earlier this month, Talaat Sadat said the assassination was an international conspiracy that included his uncle's personal guards and some Egyptian army commanders. He also claimed the United States and Israel were involved.
"No one from the special personal protection group of the late president fired a single shot during the killing, and not one of them has been put on trial," he said.
Sadat, an independent member of parliament, has been an outspoken critic of President Hosni Mubarak over what many see as attempts to groom the president's son, Gamal, to step into power.
Seven Egyptian human rights organizations have expressed concern over the prosecution of Sadat, saying his remarks were protected by freedom of speech and condemning the decision to try him in a military court.
Critics have accused Mubarak's government of using court cases in the past against political enemies. Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak in 2005 presidential elections and finished a distant second, is serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted on forgery charges he said were trumped up to eliminate him as a political rival.
Conspiracy allegations involving Sadat's assassination are not new. As he was killed while sitting in a well-guarded podium, surrounded by his Cabinet, rumors have abounded that the assassins were secretly helped by senior figures.