CAIRO: Defense lawyers described the evidence against their clients as “weak” after two prosecution witnesses changed their testimonies in court during a hearing of the “Battle of the Camel” trial.
Civil society lawyers called for summoning high-profile witnesses.
Lawyer Fathi Aboul Hassan demanded Wednesday that former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq as well as former and current interior ministers Mahmoud Wagdy and Mansour El-Essawy testify.
He also demanded that Gamal and Alaa Mubarak be included as defendants in the case, in addition to joining the case with that of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who is currently standing trial for the killing of protesters.
“The charge is the same in both cases which is ordering the attack on peaceful protesters and dispersing them by any means possible,” Aboul Hassan told Daily News Egypt.
He added that the prosecution’s investigations prove that Mubarak’s sons were involved in the “Camel Battle” and yet they weren’t included as defendants in this case.
Twenty-five former officials and MPs are charged with inciting attacks aimed at terrorizing peaceful protesters, killing them and injuring them in a bid to disperse mass protests held to bring down the regime.
Mubarak and his sons are being tried in a separate case for their involvement in killing peaceful protesters during the 18-day revolt which toppled Mubarak, in addition to other corruption charges.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the court listened to the testimony of seven witnesses testifying against the defendants involved in inciting the attack on peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square on Feb 2 and Feb.3.
Two of the prosecution witnesses ended up testifying in favor of the defendants instead, saying that their previous testimonies in front of the prosecution were based on “hearsay.”
Defense lawyers called for the release of defendants and former MPs Talaat El-Qawwas, Ragab Helal Hemeida and Mohamed Ouda, following witnesses’ testimonies.
“The only witness who testified against El-Qawwas in front of the prosecution changed his testimony in the defendant’s favor before the court today,” lawyer representing El-Qawwas, Tarek Gamil, said on Wednesday.
“He was detained because of this false testimony,” he said, adding that El-Qawass suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and needed special treatment outside of prison due to his condition. The court rejected lawyers’ demands.
Witness Ibrahim Metwally Ramadan, a tour guide, said he was incited by a friend to file a complaint against defendants Hemeida and El-Qawwas, accusing them of paying people money to attack peaceful protesters.
Witness Khaled Mohamed Abdel Azim, an owner of an import-export company, said he heard that defendant and former MP Mohamed Ouda had paid thugs to attack protesters in the square and filed a complaint to that effect.
They said they withdrew complaints filed to the prosecutor general against the defendants because they made a mistake. The two witnesses denied being contacted, influenced or paid off by any of the defendants to change their testimonies.
Lawyer Saad Ahmed Saad, who represents defendants former MP Hassan El-Tonsy and chief of detectives in El-Marg, Hany Abdel Raof, described the witnesses as “false witnesses.”
He told DNE that while interrogating the witnesses and discussing the evidence, it became clear that the case was weak and not enough to convict the defendants and put them through this predicament.
Three other witnesses testified against notorious lawyer and former MP Mortada Mansour, saying that they witnessed him inciting “thugs” to attack peaceful protesters near Tahrir Square on Feb. 2.
Mansour was kicked out of the courtroom after insulting the Wednesday’s first witness, who described him as a “thug.”
“Liar, this didn’t happen,” shouted Mansour. “I’m not a thug.”
Mansour’s defense team withdrew from the hearing in protest and the rest of the lawyers urged the judge to allow him back in. Mansour put up a fight when the judge ordered him to leave the courtroom, promising to be quiet if the judge allowed him to stay.
Judge Moustafa Hasaan Abdallah then went to recess and when the hearing resumed, Mansour had already left the courtroom. The judge said later in the day that Mansour would be allowed to attend the next hearing.
The first witness Mohamed Aly Soliman El-Shorbagy testified that he saw Mansour in a white Jeep on the Sixth of October Bridge near Tahrir Square, surrounded by 15 thugs.
He added that the thugs were giving orders to 400 men, dispersed on top and below the bridge, to throw Molotov cocktails and rocks at protesters in the iconic square.
There was a major contradiction between the testimony of El-Shorbagy and his friend Mohamed Abdel Hameed who said he saw Mortada in a black Jeep along with El-Shorbagy the same day.
Abdel-Hameed pointed out that he discussed the contradiction several times with El-Shorbagy, yet he insisted the Jeep was black. He added that the lighting was good enough to see the color of clearly.
“The color of the car doesn’t matter, what matters is that we both saw Mansour and what happened,” he said.
Another contradiction between the two testimonies is that El-Shorbagy said the thugs surrounding Mansour weren’t armed but the other attackers dispersed on top of and below the bridge had Molotov cocktails, rocks and metal pipes.
On the other hand, Abdel Hameed said the thugs surrounding Mortada were armed with Molotov cocktails, rocks and one of the thugs had a gun in his belt.
According to both witnesses, one of the thugs showed Mansour his injured hand and another asked him to send his regards to Mr. Wahid.
Wahid Salah Gomaa, lawyer and Mansour’s nephew, is a defendant in the same case.
El-Shorbagy demonstrated a gun shot wound in his leg at the court. He said it came from the direction of the thugs, but he couldn’t determine exactly who shot him while he was in Tahrir Square.
The third witness and owner of an import-export company, Abdel Rehim Abbas Ibrahim, said he saw Mansour in Mostafa Mahmoud Square along with other Mubarak supporters, including prominent actors, on the afternoon on Feb 2. He added that Mansour called on protesters to head to Tahrir to rid it from “the filth.”
Ibrahim then left at 5:30 pm as he saw protesters heading to May 15 Bridge along with Mansour. He added that he saw Gomaa giving out money to some of the protesters, but he couldn’t confirm the amount of money or why it was being distributed.
Mansour described Ibrahim as a “thug” and “criminal” before the trial started. He told reporters that Ibrahim was one of the supporters and representatives of his competitor in the 2010 parliamentary elections, former NDP MP, Abdel Rahman Baraka.
He also claimed that Ibrahim was accused of 17 cases of thuggery, writing bad checks and beating a low-ranking police officer.
Ibrahim denied that he had any differences with Mansour during his testimony. The court refused defense lawyers’ questions asking Ibrahim whether he was connected to Baraka or supported him.
The trial was adjourned to Oct. 8 to listen to the testimonies of five defense witnesses.