Samer al-Atrush, AFP
Last updated: 24 September, 2011

Lawyers demand new judge in Mubarak trial

Lawyers for alleged victims of Egyptian ex-president Hosni Mubarak in his murder trial demanded a new judge on Saturday after military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi testified in court.

Tantawi, who served as defence minister for Mubarak before his overthrow by a popular revolt on February 11, testified behind closed doors.

The court has issued a gag order on Tantawi’s testimony and the session’s proceedings and warned it would pursue local and international media that violate the blackout.

After the hearing, one of the victims’ lawyers, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsud, told AFP his colleagues had requested a change of judge.

“The court has lost its jurisdiction by not administering the sessions in a manner conforming with the course of justice,” he said.

The chief judge in the trial, Ahmed Refaat, defended the court’s integrity in previous sessions while lashing out at critics. An appeal court will consider the lawyers’ request in coming days, Abdel Maqsud said.

Refaat scheduled the next trial session for October 30, the official MENA news agency reported.

None of the earlier prosecution witnesses summoned to testify against Mubarak, his former interior minister Habib al-Adly and six security chiefs have corroborated charges that they ordered the shootings of demonstrators.

Tantawi, who as military chief took charge of the country after Mubarak’s ouster, testified after requests from Mubarak’s defence and lawyers acting on behalf of his alleged victims in civil suits.

He was meant to appear in court on September 11, but postponed his testimony after protesters ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo the day before.

Other high profile witnesses scheduled to appear before court that week, including former spy chief and vice president Omar Suleiman and two security chiefs, testified in camera.

In earlier open court sessions, some of the witnesses, all police officers, said Adly gave orders to use tear gas against protesters as a last resort, and that policemen were urged to act with restraint.

About 850 people were killed in the 18-day protest that overthrew Mubarak. One policeman, a prosecution witness, testified he had been ordered to treat protesters as “brothers.”

Prosecutors interrupted another of their witnesses — who said police confronting protesters were armed only with blanks and batons — in mid-testimony to accuse him of perjury.

Mubarak, 83, attends the hearings on a stretcher. He is under arrest in a military hospital on Cairo’s outskirts, where he receives treatment for a heart condition.

His two sons Alaa and Gamal are co-defendants in the trial, which will also judge on corruption charges they share with their father and another defendant, Hussein Salama, who fled to Spain.