Monday, May 14, 2007

Egyptian court upholds Mubarak decision to try Brotherhood members before military tribunal

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

CAIRO: Egypt upheld a decision Monday by President Hosni Mubarak to have some 40 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood group tried by a military court, a judicial source said. Supreme Administrative Court Judge Issam Abdel-Aziz reversed a May 8 ruling in a lower court which declared invalid the president's decision, the source told AFP.

The military trial of the men, charged with money laundering and financing a banned organization, is now scheduled to resume on June 3.

The judge at the May ruling, Mohammad al-Husseini, said a military court would not "assure a fair trial" and the verdict was then described as "historic and unprecedented" by the banned but tolerated Brotherhood.

One of the accused is the group's financier and third-ranking official, Khayrat al-Shater.

The defendants and approximately 100 relatives had filed a suit against Mubarak but the president's lawyers argued that he had "absolute power."

Husseini said "there is nothing in Egyptian law called absolute power, so [Mubarak's] decision is illegal, because every decision must be based on the law and the constitution."

Egyptian authorities have kept Shater and the other accused behind bars despite a civilian court order in January to free the men.

The Muslim Brotherhood fielded candidates as independents in the 2005 legislative polls and recorded its best-ever results, securing 20 percent of seats in a Parliament controlled by Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

Many observers argued at the time that the movement might have won a larger share of seats had the election not been marred by widespread fraud and voter obstruction.

Last week, Parliament lifted the immunity of two members from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, a prerequisite for sending them to trial.

Parliament also approved a new law on political rights, including an article enabling the authorities to disqualify any parliamentary candidates who use religious slogans or symbols - seen as a direct response to the Brotherhood's electoral successes in 2005. - AFP.

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