CAIRO - A military court in Cairo has decided, for the second time, to postpone the verdict in a trial of 20 Egyptian professionals accused of membership of the banned Muslim Brotherhood organization.
The verdict, which was originally postponed from its 30 July date, is now set to come down on 7 November.
Mustapha Atteya, a member of the defense team, complained that lawyers were given no advance notice of the decision, or any reason for the postponement. "We went at 9 am to get to the court early and found there was no one there," he told Cairo Times. "They prevented us from entering and just sent an officer to tell us that the verdict had been postponed."
Atteya expressed his outrage at the way the proceedings were handled. "At any other real court in the world, there would have been a session held to announce the postponement and some reason would have been given," he added. "But this is not a real court."
Spokesmen for the Muslim fundamentalist group have claimed that the postponement is a direct result of upcoming parliamentary elections, and a clear attempt by the government to intimidate prospective Muslim Brother candidates.
"It is obviously a type of pressure being used to exert influence over the outcome of the elections," said Atteya. "Speaking for the defense team, we consider it the first sign that the government intends to falsify elections." The postponement comes on the heels of accusations by Dr. Essam Al Eryan--who was himself convicted in the military trials in 1995--that the government has been employing security forces in several areas to threaten or otherwise dissuade prospective Muslim Brother candidates from running in the upcoming elections.
While Eryan refused to reveal details concerning the interactions between the Muslim Brothers and police, he did say that it had not occurred on a widespread basis. "It did not happen to dozens of people," he said. "But it only takes a few to get the message out. Now everyone knows what's going on." Referring to the postponement of the military trial verdict, Eryan stated: "The fact that the ruling has been postponed for three months is a verdict in itself."
Muslim Brother spokesman Ma'moun Al Hodeiby told Cairo Times that there has been a systematic attempt to intimidate prospective candidates. "There are 20 on trial, and hundreds more in prison," he said. "They expect that there will be an effect and it will be effective." Since the arrest in October 1999 of the 20 accused professionals who are now on trial, over 100 other suspected fundamentalists have been detained.
Last month 25 men were arrested in Menoufiya and the provinces of Suezand Gharbiya for allegedly planning to enter the parliamentary race.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )