A Cairo criminal court on Sunday banned future live television and radio coverage of the trials of several prominent former ruling party members suspected of involvement in attacks against anti-regime protesters on what came to be known as “Battle of the Camel.”
Safwat el-Sherif, former speaker of Egypt’s upper house of parliament, and Fathi Sorour, ex-speaker of the country’s lower house of parliament, and others are accused of inciting brutal violence against opposition demonstrations on February 2, when pro-regime supporters backed by armed men on horses and camels stormed Cairo’s Tahrir square in one of the most dramatic scenes of the Egyptian revolution.
The court took the decision during the first session of their trial on Sunday in response to a request made by a defense lawyer, citing respect for human rights. During Sunday’s hearing, part of which aired live on Al Arabiya TV, the defendants denied the charges of planning and funding the attacks.
Testimony of Egypt military ruler postponed
Meanwhile, the testimony of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s military ruler, as a witness at the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak has been postponed to September 24, judicial sources said Sunday.
Tantawi, who is the de facto head of state since the fall of Mubarak to a popular uprising in February, faced a last minute difficulty which made him unavailable to testify as scheduled on Sunday, the sources said.
Tantawi is one of the highest profile witnesses called to testify at Mubarak's trial, which has grabbed widespread regional attention.
The sources said that following the postponing of Tantawi’s testimony, the testimony of the chief of the general staff, Sami Anan, has been postponed to September 25. It had been scheduled for Monday.
Trial judge Ahmed Refaat, at a September 7 hearing, ordered that the two senior military officials testify behind closed doors for reasons of “national security.”
Earlier television footage of the first two sessions of the trial which opened August 3 showed the ailing 83-year-old Mubarak, who faces charges of involvement in the killings of protesters and corruption, lying on a stretcher and in a cage in the courtroom.
The charges against Mubarak, who has pleaded not guilty, follow months of protests demanding justice for the roughly 850 people killed during the revolt which ended his regime.
The trial is being held in a police academy once named after Mubarak on Cairo's outskirts.