CAIRO: The Hikestep Military Court complex will supposedly hold the last hearing in the trial of 40 Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members today, Brotherhood lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, told Daily News Egypt.
Arrested in December 2006, the detainees, including Khayrat El Shater, third highest-ranking member and chief financier, were accused of belonging to a banned group and money laundering. Despite being exonerated by civilian courts, in February 2007 President Hosni Mubarak ordered them transferred to a military court.
“I expect the court to issue its final verdict [on Tuesday], because it was postponed from last summer to wait until the local council elections are over, which they practically are since the nomination window was closed three weeks ago, Abdel Maqsoud said.
However, he added “you can expect anything from [government officials], they might postpone the case again until next month, when the elections are officially over, or they can postpone it for an even longer time for no reason.
As for his predictions on the verdict, Abdel Maqsoud said that he does not have any expectations.
“The decision to try the 40 members in a military court is an unfair decision and is an indication of how unjust and provocative our political system is, an MB press statement read.
The press statement urged Muslims all over the world to fast on Monday – the day before the trial – and pray that night for the detained members to go back to their families. The statement also urged Muslims to pray that God show the country’s political leaders the right path so justice would prevail.
A high profile international delegation of human rights activists is expected to arrive to Cairo this week to observe the trial, among them is Zachary Wolfe, attorney at the National Labor Relations Council in Washington; Dr Marvin Morgan, a bishop and coordinator of religious human rights organizations in the United States; as well as Clayton Ramy, a prominent human rights activist.
Hafez Abu Saeda, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), told Daily News Egypt that human rights organizations’ stance is clear on that matter, adding that “we are completely against civilians being tried in military courts.
Last April the hearing of 33 of the 40 detained members was shrouded in secrecy.
The brief court session got off to a choppy start after only a single defense lawyer attended court, prompting the tribunal to postpone hearing defendants’ pleas until June, and then in June it was postponed to August and then to March.
Several sources claimed that the defense lawyers were not notified of the trial date which they learned from their clients. A number of lawyers are said to have boycotted the trial in protest.
Press and media were not allowed inside the court.
A month later, in a landmark court decision, the Egyptian State Administrative Court ruled in favor of 33 high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood members, delivering a verdict in which it acquitted them of all charges and stating that “the referral of civilians to military tribunals is unconstitutional.
In response, President Mubarak proposed a law allowing appeals of the tough, swift military court verdicts, which were hitherto irreversible.
Under the present law, which was approved by Mubarak’s NDP-dominated upper and lower houses of parliament, the president alone has the authority to reverse the verdicts of a military court.
Although this move may provide more guarantees for civilians tried in military courts, there were no details provided on how judges will be selected to preside over the new court.