The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continued Wednesday and Thursday (September 8th), surprising many with the summoning of senior officials to testify in the case.
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defence, is one of several senior officials who will testify.
Presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat, head of the Cairo Criminal Court, also summoned Sami Annan, the Army Chief of Staff and member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Omar Suleiman, the former vice president and intelligence chief.
The Wednesday and Thursday sessions were held at the Police Academy in Cairo, where witnesses testified in the trial that accuses Mubarak, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, and six of his top aides of killing demonstrators during the January 25 Revolution.
Sameh Ashour, a civil claims attorney, told Al-Shorfa that he expects the testimonies of Tantawi, Suleiman, and Annan to play a major role in determining the future course of the case.
"They were the highest officials in Egypt during the revolution and have knowledge of what transpired and hidden truths," Ashour said.
Thursday's session featured testimony from Essam Shawki, a Central Security Forces officer, about al-Adly's involvement in the killings. Shawki told the public prosecutor during the investigation that al-Adly gave clear instructions to his deputies to disperse the demonstrators by any means necessary.
Shawki said al-Adly "did not lift a finger" when he learned about the deliberate use of violence against demonstrators in Suez during the first days of the revolution. He also acknowledged the existence of a large quantity of arms held by police in Cairo.
More than 800 people were killed during the demonstrations in January. Mubarak stepped down on February 11th, after which Supreme Council assumed authority.
General Hassan Abd el-Hamid Farag, assistant interior minister for the security forces, testified that he warned al-Adly and his aides against using violence on the demonstrators. They responded by removing him from his post and reassigning him to the Cairo Security Directorate.
Farag said al-Adly ordered the implementation of "Plan 100", which involved the deployment of armed security personnel in the streets to prevent the number of demonstrators from reaching one million. Security officers were also instructed to block entrances to Tahrir Square to prevent demonstrators from entering.
The Public Prosecutor's Office, through its Department of Judicial Inspection, sprung another surprise in Wednesday's session when it charged prosecution witness Capt. Mohammed Abdel-Hakim with perjury. The court acquitted and released him at the end of the session.
Abdel-Hakim's testimony in court Wednesday contradicted statements he made to the prosecutor. He said in court that he did not receive instructions to carry firearms during the demonstrations and denied that the police were armed with ammunition, contradicting statements he made during the prosecutor's investigation.
Human rights activists considered Wednesday's session to be the most important since the trial began.
The court announced the following schedule for the high officials' testimonies: Tantawi will appear in court Sunday, Annan on Monday, Suleiman on Tuesday, Mansour Issawi, the current Minister of Interior, on Wednesday, and his predecessor Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Wagdy on Thursday.
The court announced that the sessions with the high-ranking officials will be closed and attendance will be restricted to the defence teams and the plaintiffs' attorneys.
Gamal Eid, a civil claimant and head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told Al-Shorfa, "The case is facing a major challenge since prosecution witnesses are making an astonishing shift to serve as witnesses for the defence."
He said the investigations into the charges against Mubarak, al-Adly and al-Adly's aides were not meticulous, which complicated the case. When some witnesses abruptly changed their testimony, the case became even more difficult.
"The civil rights claimants have faith in the judiciary, specifically in the trial judge, who bears an extraordinary burden at this time," Eid said.
Eid criticized the court for allowing some attendees to enter the courtroom during Monday's session carrying banners in support of Mubarak. This provoked the families of the demonstrators who died and led to conflict in the courtroom.