Egypt court adjourns minister trial after scuffle

Reuters News
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Posted: May 21, 2011 12:09 PM
Egypt court adjourns minister trial after scuffle

CAIRO (Reuters) - Scuffles broke out between lawyers and security officers in a Cairo court on Saturday, disrupting the trial of Egypt's reviled former interior minister and six other ministry officials on charges of killing protesters.

A witness told Reuters police lined up in front the defendants' cage to block the seven officials from view, provoking an outcry from human rights lawyers, who then skirmished with army and police officers guarding the courtroom.

Habib al-Adli, one of the most hated members of the administration of deposed President Hosni Mubarak because of the brutality of his police force, and the other defendants are accused of killing protesters during Egypt's uprising.

The trial was adjourned until June 26 after the scuffles.

Other cases that involved former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, former Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali and former Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, as well as Adli, were also adjourned, to June 25.

Adli is one of the most senior Mubarak-era ministers to go on trial, as the generals who now rule Egypt seek to show their commitment to cracking down on abuse of power and corruption.

He was sentenced earlier this month to 12 years in prison on separate charges of profiteering and money laundering.

Several police stations were torched during the uprising which erupted on January 25, partly because Egyptians were frustrated with a security apparatus that many say was corrupt and acted as if it was above the law.

More than 800 people died in the uprising and thousands were injured, when police fired rubber bullets, live ammunition, water cannon and teargas at peaceful protesters.

During the hearing, which lasted about five minutes, human rights lawyers demanded that Mubarak be added to the list of defendants in his capacity as the head of the supreme police council.

Nazif, Adli and Boutros-Ghali are charged in a separate case with squandering 92 million Egyptian pounds ($16 million) in public funds in a case involving alleged irregularities in the procurement of vehicle license plates.

Yet another criminal court decided on Saturday to refer a profiteering case involving former Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah back to the court of appeal.

The court said it took the decision after a prosecutor refused its request to add 14 new defendants to the case, including Mubarak's son Gamal and the former speaker in the lower house of parliament Fathi Sorour.

(Writing by Patrick Werr and Sarah Mikhail; Editing by Jon Hemming)