Egyptian-American human rights and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim went on trial in Cairo Saturday accused of undermining Egypt's interests, appearing in a cage with other defendants in the case.
Ibrahim, arrested on June 30 in a case he linked to legislative elections four months later, is mainly accused of spreading reports of electoral fraud overseas to undermine state interests, his lawyer Ibrahim Saleh said.
Foreign diplomats, including those from the US embassy, and a delegate from the London-based human rights group Amnesty International were at the opening of the trial in the Supreme State Security Court.
Ibrahim, who was detained for 40 days before being freed on bail, arrived of his own accord at the court house but was then put in a cage with 15 other defendants, both in this case and separate ones scheduled for later.
Twenty-seven other people are being tried in the case, but it was not clear exactly how many were being tried on Saturday.
Ibrahim has complained that the case had been mounted against him for his work toward supporting democratic elections, as well as standing up for women's rights and those of the Coptic Christian minority.
Before the trial began, he told AFP he expected to be "found innocent of all charges", and that he put his faith in the legal system.
He added that he will "ask for the testimony of well-known people" to bolster his defense against accusations of spreading information abroad about the 1995 legislative elections.
"There were 80 decisions by the cassation court upholding the findings of fraud in 80 voting districts" in that election, he added. "Will the court now put the cassation court on trial," he asked.
Amnesty International has described the event as a "political trial," expressing concern that the state security court, whose verdicts cannot be appealed, "does not guarantee international standards for fair trial."
The London-based human rights group said the charge of spreading false information is of a "political nature."
Amnesty also recalled previous concerns over "pre-trial irregularities when several accused were held for weeks in detention without having been formally charged."
Amnesty and other human rights groups at home and abroad have not been alone in raising the alarm over the case of Ibrahim, an Egyptian who also has US citizenship and directs the Ibn Khaldun Center for human rights.
He is also accused of having forged voter registration cards, in the runup to legislative elections that were held from October 18 to November 14.
Among the 27 facing similar charges alongside Ibrahim are Nadia Abdel Nur, a Sudanese accountant at the Ibn Khaldun Center who had been released with Ibrahim on August 10 on the condition she not leave Egypt.
The others are all employees of the center or of the Women Voters Support Center, which Egyptian authorities accused in June of helping Ibrahim forge voter registration cards.
He could face life in prison with hard labor for some of the charges against him - CAIRO (AFP)
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