CAIRO: The trial of ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly and six of his aides in the case of killing protesters was adjourned Sunday to Sept. 5 before the outraged defense team had a chance to speak.
“This session was a farce in front of the whole world, caused by the lawyers of the civil rights claimants and their inability to organize,” Essam El-Batawy, El-Adly’s lawyer told Daily News Egypt after the hearing.
Presiding Judge Ahmed Rifaat ordered four recesses in the span of three hours in a clear show of frustration at the lack of organization displayed by the claimants’ lawyers, who systematically interrupted and ignored his instructions throughout the session.
Upon his return from the third recess, Judge Rifaat insisted that the lawyers keep their voices down while addressing the court and asked them to get organized, saying “this is unacceptable.”
Samir Helmy, a lawyer volunteering for the prosecution, admitted that some lawyers disrespected the court prompting the judge to announce a recess.
Despite the lawyers’ general misconduct, the judge responded positively to complaints of lawyers not getting access to the courtroom by ordering security to allow them in throughout El-Adly and Mubarak’s trials, without an official permit.
Lawyers are now only required to present their syndicate membership card and a power of attorney.
One of the lawyers’ demands included merging El-Adly’s case with that of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s, since the defendants, victims and evidence are common in both.
“The two cases should have the same verdict and the same defense team,” one of the lawyers said.
Both cases were tried in a joint procedural hearing on Aug. 3 but the judge decided to adjourn each case to a different date and proceed with them separately.
Lawyers also asked that the “Battle of the Camel” case, referring to the incident on Feb. 2 when Mubarak supporters on horse and camel-back trampled protesters in Tahrir Square, also be added.
One lawyer requested that the court re-examine the case, describing the prosecution’s investigations as “weak,” which resulted in a tense exchange between the lawyer and a member of the prosecution, who accused the lawyer of disrespecting the prosecution and the court by making false accusations.
It was then that the judge announced the third recess to prevent an escalation.
“I believe the prosecution deliberately underwent inadequate and insufficient investigations after I reviewed the evidence,” Helmy said.
“Who are they trying to protect?” he asked.
Among the lawyers’ demands was to include all correspondences and recorded conversations between the defendants as part of the evidence, along with the footage taken during the uprising by cameras fixed on the state TV building, Maspero, the Egyptian museum, the American University of Cairo (AUC) and cameras fixed on the famous square itself, which witnessed most of the clashes.
Lawyer Amir Salem said that Maspero had 850 cameras covering the adjacent streets, adding that the prosecution had six hard disks filled with footage of the clashes from Jan. 25 to Feb. 24, including footage of security forces murdering and trampling peaceful protesters.
However, according to El-Batawy the tapes made available by Egyptian intelligence and are part of the evidence show Tahrir Square from Feb. 1 to Feb. 18, while other unofficial CDs show footage taken by civilians during the clashes.
The court had set a period from Aug. 6 to Aug. 11 for lawyers to examine the evidence at the High Court. However, lawyers requested more time to review it for logistical reasons.
Some lawyers claimed that some of the evidence was still sealed with red wax and could not be examined, which the judge quickly refuted, saying that he personally supervised the examination of the evidence for three days.
Helmy said that the lawyers will be allowed to continue examining the evidence until Sept. 9, according to the court’s decision.
The judge vowed to set a specific date to review and record the video tapes and CDs included in the evidence, but no such date was set by the end of the hearing.
Violent clashes between security forces and peaceful protesters during the first few days of the Jan. 25 uprising left at least 846 dead and over 6,000 injured, according to an official report by a fact-finding mission.
On May 5, El-Adly was sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering and unlawful acquisition of public funds, the first convicted official of the regime of former Mubarak, who was forced to step down on Feb. 11.