Prosecution lawyers on Saturday submitted a motion requesting the recusal of judges currently presiding over the ongoing trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, former interior minister Habib El-Adly and a handful of senior police officers. The Cairo Criminal Court mandated with hearing the case has therefore suspended court sessions until the recusal motion is ruled upon on 26 September.
The recusal request was attributed mainly to a perceived lack of partiality on the part of presiding judges.
Prosecutors also complain that lawyers representing the families of protesters killed during Egypt's recent revolution were assaulted by police officers who barred them from entering the courtroom. Lawyers for the families of slain protesters also say they were not given a chance to question Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), when he appeared in court on Saturday.
While Tantawi’s closed-door testimony remains unknown to public, the lawyers' motion for recusal has led to speculation that his statements were not as decisive in their condemnation of Mubarak as had been expected.
Testimony delivered by Tantawi, who served as defence minister under Mubarak for more than two decades, had been expected to address the question of whether Mubarak had ordered the use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters during the course of the 18-day uprising. In a previous statement issued by SCAF, Tantawi had stated that the military had received orders to fire on protesters but had refused to do so.
Mubarak has been formally accused of conspiring with El-Adly to kill peaceful demonstrators, more than 840 of whom were killed throughout the course of the uprising. Although the former head of state could face the death penalty if convicted, testimony delivered thus far has reportedly failed to hold Mubarak accountable for the crimes in question.
The court session featuring Tantawi’s long-awaited appearance began earlier than usual, wrapping up before most lawyers had even arrived to courtroom. According to reports in Egypt's flagship daily Al-Ahram, Tantawi answered a total of 26 questions posed by lawyers for both the prosecution and the defence.
Lieutenant General Sami Anan, SCAF's second highest-ranking official, had been scheduled to deliver testimony on Sunday before sessions were suspended. Sessions are expected to resume on 30 September following a court decision on the recusal request.
Lawyer and former lawyers syndicate chairman Sameh Ashour has called for a press conference on Sunday to explain to the public why lawyers had called for the judges' recusal.