More than two dozen people suspected of spying for the Lebanese group Hizbullah and plotting attacks on tourists and other targets in Egypt went on trial on Sunday.
The 26 suspects face charges that include spying for a foreign group, planning attacks against tourists and shipping in the Suez Canal and sending operatives and explosives to Gaza to help groups there.
A state security prosecutor read out the charges at the beginning of the hearing. Some of the defendants were also charged with helping train Hizbullah supporters in the group's camps in Lebanon, lawyers and judiciary officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to journalists.
In April, Egyptian security officials said they had uncovered a Hizbullah cell plotting to destabilize the country.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah has admitted sending an agent to supervise weapons shipments to Hamas in Gaza, but he has denied seeking to harm Egypt's security.
Prosecutor Hesham Bedawi said 18 of the suspects provided Hizbullah with information about Suez Canal schedules, security details as well as information about tourist destinations in the Sinai Peninsula.
At least three of the suspects were also charged with digging tunnels under Egypt's border with Gaza with the intention of smuggling people and goods. Others are charged with providing safehouses for gunmen smuggled across the border.
Earlier, prosecutors identified two suspects as workers in the Suez Canal shipping industry and others as Egyptians living along the border with Gaza.
The suspects also include two Lebanese and five Palestinians.
According to the prosecutors, the Lebanese in the group provided the cell with money and technical expertise to collect information and acquire explosives to destabilize Egypt's security.
This is the first time Egypt has charged people involved in the smuggling trade with Gaza. Israel has long complained that Egypt is not doing enough to stop the smuggling of weapons and people through tunnels running beneath the border.
Since the Islamic militant group Hamas wrested control of Gaza from rival Palestinian faction Fatah, Egypt and Israel have imposed an economic and travel blockade on the seaside territory.
Although Egypt has allowed in a trickle of medical and other aid, the tunnels have been the main economic lifeline for Gazans.
Mohammed Saleem al-Awa, a lawyer for the two Lebanese, said the defendants pleaded not guilty. "They even said that they know nothing about the case," he told reporters.
The trial was adjourned until Oct. 26.
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