Cairo Criminal Court started hearings on Saturday into the case of businessman Hassan Ratib, former MP Alaa Hassanein and 23 others charged with illegally excavating for antiquities.
The Public Prosecution charged Ratib and Hassanein of forming a gang to trade in looted artifacts that were embezzled by financed excavations in separate areas throughout the country to sell them inside the country and smuggle them abroad for the same purpose.
During Saturday’s session, Ratib pleaded not guilty, and denied charges leveled against him.
Hassanein asked the judge to listen to his statements in the deliberation room in a secret session, because “there are two important things that he does not like to disclose in order to preserve national security.”
The court decided to adjourn the case until February 12.
Security forces arrested Hassanein in June in possession of more than 200 artifacts, including three statues made of bronze, one headless statue, and a small wooden statue.
Authorities also seized two stones divided into two halves in the possession of Hassanein and the head of a clown statue from the Greek era and another sexual stone dating back to the same era, as well as 52 coins of different shapes, and three needles used in surgeries in the Islamic era.
Tools used in the excavation included five drills, 12 axes, three iron crunches, nine hammers, an electric generator and a large amount of ropes, among others.
Ratib was arrested two days later after Hassanein’s arrest for financing illegal excavations and antiquities research worth millions of pounds.
Hassanein’s brother, who is also charged in the same case, admitted during investigations that they are involved in search for antiquities and smuggle it abroad.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm