Mubarak trial witness 'held' for perjury

Key witness in former president's trial briefly detained for perjury after changing earlier evidence.

    Egypt's ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, is on trial for complicity in protester deaths [Al Jazeera]

    A key witness in the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was detained after being charged with perjury for dramatically changing his evidence.

    The move on Wednesday came after Captain Mohammed Abdel-Hakim, in charge of ammunition for a Cairo security regiment, denied he had any knowledge that police were armed or given orders to shoot protesters during the anti-Mubarak uprising.

    Abdel-Hakim was released shortly after the hearing adjourned.

    Lawyers for the families of dead protesters accused him of changing his earlier statements to prosecutors in which he said he had been given orders to open fire, and the judge ordered him arrested. Abdel-Hakim had told investigators he issued hundreds of bullets to each of his soldiers.

    Prosecutors say four earlier witnesses also changed their stories, though none have been charged.

    Family lawyers praised the perjury arrest after earlier criticism that the prosecution was not acting strongly enough to discipline its witnesses and present its case. Some have accused senior security officials and Mubarak supporters of pressuring the witnesses into changing their stories.

    "The prosecution took a brave step in response to the lawyers of the families, who were very upset because of all the perjuries," Gamal el-Shukheibi, a lawyer for the dead protesters families, said.

    "It is clear the witnesses are coming under pressure to change their testimonies."

    'Live ammunition'

    The former Egyptian president is charged with conspiring to kill protesters and "inciting" some officers to use live ammunition.

    Mubarak, who arrived at the court by helicopter, is also accused of abusing power to amass wealth. He denies the charges.
    Wednesday's hearing for the 83-year-old is the fourth session since the trial begun on August 3.

    He has been in hospital since April and attended all three court sessions on a stretcher. Cameras have been barred by the judge from the courtroom.

    Also standing trial alongside the former president and former interior Minister Habib al-Adli are Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, as well as six police officers.

    About 20 protesters shouted abuse at Mubarak and police, some chanting "Hosni Mubarak is a thief".

    There was a heavy police presence outside the court to prevent scuffles with Mubarak supporters.

    Testimonies 'unreliable'

    Lawyers representing families of victims said the police witnesses who testified on Monday gave different answers before the trial.

    "They have changed the testimonies they previously gave to the prosecution which makes them unreliable," Amir Salem said.

    A senior police officer told the court on Monday that he was not aware of any order to fire on protesters although he said police were given live ammunition to protect the interior ministry.

    General Hussein Saeed Mohamed Moussa, in charge of communications for state security, said he believed the decision to issue arms was taken by a senior police officer, Ahmed Ramzi, who is on trial alongside Mubarak.

    Two other police witnesses said they were told to exercise "self restraint" during the uprising.
    Egypt's justice minister has agreed to let five Kuwaiti lawyers join the Mubarak defence team, the state news agency MENA said.

    The Kuwaiti lawyers, who were not allowed into the last session, have said their decision to volunteer for Mubarak's defence was in recognition for his role in supporting a US-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of the Gulf Arab state in 1991.

    Tantawi to testify

    Wednesday's hearing adjourned with the judge summoning the top brass in Egypt's new ruling military council and his former vice-president to testify in closed sessions on Mubarak's role in quelling protests against his rule.

    Ahmed Rifaat, the presiding judge, summoned Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defence minister and is now the military ruler, to testify in a closed session on Sunday.

    "[Ahmed Rifaat,] the presiding judge, has decided that these sessions will take place daily, [starting Sunday] on every work day," Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reported from Cairo.

    Also summoned were the military chief of staff and Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's vice-president and intelligence chief, who will testify next week.

    Many Egyptians believe that their testimony is key in determining whether Mubarak ordered the use of lethal force against the uprising.

    "We will hear for the first time from Tantawi about the relationship between the military, the government and state security during the revolution, what the conversations were taking place between Hosni Mubarak and Tantawi," Tadros said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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