Cairo Criminal Court, which is hearing the appeal of ousted President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday, will convene on a daily basis beginning next week so as to issue a verdict by March 2012, judicial sources have said. Meantime, the same court on Tuesday postponed to 22 January the trial of former Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmi on charges of squandering public funds.
The sources said the court would have liked to issue its verdict in the Mubarak case on 25 January so as to coincide with the anniversary of the revolution, but the multitude of witnesses and lawyers’ requests have delayed the process.
Mubarak, his two sons, the former interior minister and six of his aides are charged with killing demonstrators during the revolution and exporting natural gas to Israel for below-market rates.
The sources explained that the court would ask the lawyers to limit the number of witnesses due to the difficulty of hearing testimonies of all 6000 witnesses asked for by the lawyers.
Some lawyers on the plaintiff’s defense team deemed it unnecessary to take the testimony of Chief of Staff Sami Anan. They said his testimony would not add to the case but only cause a delay of two weeks. Others, however, insisted on taking his testimony.
“We need him to tell us if Mubarak ordered the army to disperse the demonstrators,” said Ismail al-Sayed, a lawyer from the defense team. “We also need to know if Mubarak was going to dismiss Hussein Tantawi, the defense minister at the time.”
Fahmy was responsible for setting the preferential rates quoted in Egypt's natural gas export deal with Israel, according to the head of a panel appointed by the Public Prosecution to review the contract.
Fahmy, five other ministry officials and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem have been on trial since May for allegedly squandering public funds and profiting from the export deal by selling gas at below-market rates, at a cost to Egypt of US$714 million.
The prosecution demands that the defendants be forced to pay LE1 million as temporary compensation, and that they be tried for treason and ruining the national economy. The prosecution has requested the maximum sentence allowed under law.
A judicial source said that in Tuesday's session, the prosecutor presented an official copy of the translation report for the gas export contracts.
The source went on to say the trial was adjourned in response to a request by the defense for more time to review an official copy of the translation report as well as minutes of cabinet meetings in which the export deal was approved.