Events heat up during ‘Hizbullah cell’ trial

The trial of 26 people accused of taking part in an alleged Hizbullah cell in Egypt resumed at the Supreme State Security Court yesterday amid disputes over the defendants’ legal representation.

Two Lebanese, five Palestinians, a Sudanese, and 18 Egyptians stand accused of “spying” for the Lebanon-based group.

An argument broke out between the original defense lawyers who withdrew during the 28 October session and the new lawyers appointed by the court. Members of the Lawyers Syndicate Board also took part in the argument, after they informed the court of the syndicate’s decision to boycott the trial, which they do not view as legitimate. The syndicate board insisted on not letting any lawyer plead in the case, while the appointed attorneys insisted on defending the accused.

Mohamed Salim el-Awa, a renowned lawyer and Islamic scholar, ended the dispute about whether or not the lawyers’ attendance should be recorded. El-Awa asked the original lawyers to register their attendance, calming the arguing factions.

Security was tight, with more than 500 Central Security soldiers surrounding the courtroom. The families of defendants were denied entry, but members of the media were allowed in.

The entire board of the Lawyers Syndicate was present in the courtroom. Mohamed el-Damaty, a member of the board, said that the case of the alleged Hezbollah cell was referred to the Supreme State Security Court in order to achieve a specific verdict. The attendance of the syndicate’s board aimed to have the syndicate’s stance recorded in the trial’s minutes and to question any attorney who agrees to work on the case, el-Damaty said.

Samy Shehab, a Lebanese defendant, cried from behind bars before the trial started: “The lawyer who spoke for us in the last session, and who claimed that Israel is not an enemy, comes from the Israeli lawyers syndicate, and is a close friend to it. We do not want him!” The lawyers asked that Shehab be removed, while the rest of the attendants applauded the defendants and shouted “Allahu akbar” and “We do not want him” for several minutes.

The session began with Counselor Adel Abdel Salam announcing the minister of justice’s approval to allow Emil Rahma, a Lebanese attorney, to defend Shehab. He also declared that el-Awa asked the judge to postpone the prosecutions for a later session in order to solve the dispute among lawyers.

“We respect the judiciary and we have registered our attendance, yet, the syndicate to which we belong imposes obligations that we need to fulfill. A decision banning the lawyers from pleading before the court has been adopted, so we need more time in order to be able to attend regularly,” Abdel Salam said. “It is the defendant’s right that we assist our fellow original attorneys, appointed lawyers and syndicate members.”

The court postponed procedures until the 26 December session because the third suspect was attending his exams at the faculty of medicine. The rest of defendants will remain in custody. All defendants had accused State Security Police of extracting false confessions using torture.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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