Trial of Accused Islamist Militants Proceeds in Egyptian Military Court
Ninety-four Egyptians and foreigners accused of being Islamist militants went on trial in a military court Sunday, with some accused of plotting to assassinate Egyptian security officials and public figures, planning to destroy public buildings and illegally possessing weapons, said reports.
According to AFP, 87 bearded men appeared behind bars in the courtroom in northern Cairo, many of them alleging to reporters that they had been tortured during their detention.
Security sources told MSNBC that the suspects, some of whom were arrested in May, included one person who holds both US and Egyptian nationality, another Egyptian with German citizenship and a third with Dutch citizenship.
One Yemeni and four men from the southern Russian republic of Dagestan are also among the accused.
Seven men were also indicted in absentia, the sources said.
The suspects claimed that the Egyptian authorities are trying to show the United States through this trial that they are going serious about combating terrorism in the wake of the attacks on the United States blamed on Arab Muslim militant Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network.
Defendant Hisham Diab, a 41-year-old Dutch-Egyptian, was quoted by AP as saying that the authorities “were about to let us go, (but) after Sept. 11 they turned it into a military trial."
Diab, a one-time cinematographer who was working as an exporter-importer before being arrested, said “We have nothing to do with Al Qaeda."
The judge, however, adjourned the trial until Wednesday to allow defense lawyers to study the case against their clients.
Defense lawyers complained they had not even been given a copy of the charge sheet, which was read out in court by the presiding judge, whose name cannot be disclosed to the public, AFP said.
Charges included founding and running an illegal group - called Al Waad (the Promise) by Egyptian newspapers - aimed at breaking the law while resorting to "terrorism."
Others charges included encouraging worshippers at mosques to oppose the government, plotting to blow up public buildings, and planning to assassinate government officials and members of the security services.
Over the past month, Egyptian authorities have referred several hundred accused Muslim militants to military jurisdiction, prompting accusations from rights groups that Egypt is using “the US-led war on terrorism to settle scores with its political enemies.”
Egypt began referring suspected Islamic militants to military tribunals in the early 1990s, citing a need for faster justice than that offered by Egypt's backlogged civil courts – Albawaba.com
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