CAIRO: Members of the defence team representing 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood denounced on Tuesday the charges and trial of their clients as “unconstitutional.
Speaking in a press conference held at the Lawyers’ Syndicate the day after the latest hearing in the case, lawyer Abdel Moneim Maqsoud condemned the trial of civilians in military courts, saying that they “violate the law and infringe citizens’ rights.
The trial of the senior leaders of the organization began in January 2007, when various charges were levelled against them, including terrorism, membership of a banned organisation and possession of prohibited literature.
The terrorism charge was subsequently dropped and additional charges of money laundering were added to the list of accusations against some of the defendants, including the group’s third in command, Khayrat El-Shater. This charge was also dropped yesterday.
The remaining two charges against the defendants are membership of a prohibited organization, and possession of prohibited literature.
During the over 12-hour session on Monday (which ended shortly before midnight) the military court hearing the case adjourned until Feb. 26.
Numerous foreign observers – including representatives from international human rights organisation Amnesty International and American peace activist Cindy Sheehan – who had come to express solidarity with the defendants, were not allowed into the courtroom.
Lawyer and member of the People’s Assembly Sabry Saleh told reporters that probity of the case is compromised by the judiciary’s lack of independence.
“The judges hearing the case are military officers who are selected once a year to hear cases in military courts. Judges have been changed during the course of this case, which in effect means that they are appointed by the executive, he said.
An amendment to the Military Law now makes it possible to appeal military court verdicts to a Higher Military Court, but Saleh said that the court’s independence is necessarily in doubt because of its makeup.
“Military officers answer to the executive and are not independent. It is in any case wholly unconstitutional to have a parallel system of justice alongside the ordinary, civilian courts, he said.
Lawyer Ahmed Abu Baraka pointed out that the case was only transferred to the military judiciary when the ordinary courts dismissed the charges against the defendants.
“The ordinary courts found the defendants innocent because of the seriousness of the violations committed during the course of investigations. The case was transferred to the military court because if it had continued in an ordinary court the case would have been dismissed in less than an hour, he said.
The defence team allege that egregious transgressions of the law were committed while the case was being investigated, including theft of the defendants’ private funds and falsification of evidence.
In a press statement handed out during the conference, the defence team alleged that the team of experts composed of members of the Illegal Earnings Committee which gave testimony during yesterday’s court session (in relation to the money laundering charges) lacks independence and receives direct orders from State Security Investigations.
The statement says that during cross-examination of the experts yesterday, the defence team proved that the committee had falsified evidence.
When questioned about the role of the international observers in the case, Saleh told the press conference that they had come merely in an act of solidarity.
“We will not allow international interference in the case and will not use foreign channels, we are an Egyptian group and will use the Egyptian legal system to free the defendants, he said.
Maqsoud said that it was impossible to say either when the case will end, or what verdict will be handed down.
“On the basis of the evidence and the unconstitutional nature of the charges and the court hearing the case, the defendants should be freed. But this is an entirely political case brought by the government to settle scores and so it’s impossible to predict what will happen, he said.