CAIRO: The verdict in the military trial of 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) due to be heard Tuesday was delayed by the court until March 25.
The members are in the dock for financing a banned organization, as the Brotherhood is legally outlawed as a group. There were further charges against the defendants such as terrorism but they were rescinded by the court.
“This is a political case, so it does not adhere to the standard judicial process, MB lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsud told Daily News Egypt concerning the decision to delay the verdict, “we were not surprised, you must expect anything in a military court.
Abdel-Maqsud was not optimistic about the chances of a favorable verdict.
“In this environment, there is no optimism. If this is a judicial court then the timing of the verdict shouldn’t be linked to elections, he said, alluding to the upcoming municipal elections in Egypt.
“Their excuse for using military courts is to speed up the process, yet they delay things as they wish, he added.
The trial has been ongoing since last April in military courts where there is no right of appeal. Most notable amongst the defendants is the Brotherhood’s third in command and chief financier Mohamed Khayrat El Shater.
All the assets of the defendants and their families were seized or frozen and they were referred to the military courts in February. Egyptian authorities believed that after a military-style parade at Al-Azhar University in December 2006, the group was planning to topple government.
Abdel-Maqsud cast doubt on the fairness of the process, claiming judges in military courts were under pressure to tow the line because their appointment was renewed on an annual basis.
Over the past year a government crackdown on the group has gone full throttle, with additional arrests made prior to the upcoming municipal elections.
“In my opinion the delay is connected to the fact that it is a political issue not a judicial one so the verdict is not linked to the end of investigation but rather to the current political situation, MB General Secretary Mahmoud Ezzzat told Daily News Egypt.
“For us, we are committed to our path of reform, so whether they delay or not, it is all injustice. They shouldn’t be on trial in the first place. Four civil courts have cleared them, Ezzat added.
“In every other court they would be acquitted, Abdel-Maqsoud said.On Tuesday the authorities arrested 16 MB members, a security official told Agence France Presse.
They were detained in dawn raids on their homes in the Cairo district of Giza, the official told AFP.
The group included professors, doctors, engineers and students. They were deferred to the prosecution for belonging to an illegal organization, the official said.
Traditionally controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party, the municipal polls are now expected to draw fierce competition after a constitutional amendment was passed in 2005, requiring independent presidential candidates to secure the backing of 150 municipal councillors.
The municipal polls were postponed for two years in 2006 in what observers said was a way to avoid, or at least delay, another success for the Brotherhood.