CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's former top auditor who exposed massive corruption in the country went on trial before a court in Cairo on Tuesday, charged with spreading "false news" and "disturbing" the country's security.
Hisham Genena, a former judge who until recently headed the Central Auditing Organization, is one of the highest officials of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's administration to face charges.
Last December, Genena went public, saying that corruption is costing the country billions of dollars. A pro-government daily quoted him as saying that Egypt has wasted 600 billion pounds or ($67.6 billion) in corruption in 2015 alone. He later said he was misquoted and that his remarks referred to the last four-year period.
El-Sissi dismissed Genena in March, following an investigation that concluded the auditor had misled the public. The removal capped a series of measures critics say were aimed at sacking the chief auditor after speaking up against corruption.
After Tuesday's hearing, Genena told reporters outside the Cairo Misdemeanor Court that he trusts the Egyptian judiciary.
"I was part of this institution," he said. Media were barred from attending the session during which Genena's lawyers asked for an adjournment in order to have more time to study the case. The court ordered the hearings to resume on June 21.
Genena's trial has raised fears that el-Sissi, the onetime army chief-turned-president, is clamping down on voices of dissent, even among his own government. Since he led the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, el-Sissi has led a heavy security campaign against Morsi's supporters as well as pro-democracy activists.
Also facing trial are the head of Egypt's journalists' union and two board members, also accused of spreading false news and "harboring fugitives."
The charges were raised after union head Yahia Qallash led a meeting that called for the removal of the interior minister and demanded an apology from el-Sissi over a police raid at the union headquarters to detain two journalists wanted for inciting protests. The reporters had taken refuge inside the union's building in downtown Cairo. The protests were against el-Sissi's decision to surrender two Red Sea Islands to Saudi Arabia.
This story has been corrected to show that the trial is taking place at Cairo's Misdemeanor Court, not at the Criminal Court.