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Egypt court postpones trial of 26 suspected Islamist 'extremists'

Islamists accused of plotting attacks on the state shout down judge; case postponed to 15 June

Reuters, Saturday 20 Apr 2013
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A Cairo court postponed the trial Saturday of 26 alleged Islamist militants accused of planning attacks against the Egyptian state after the defendants shouted at the judge overseeing the case.

They specifically objected to court officials putting one of them in a separate cage, and called Judge Shaaban El-Shamy a corrupt figure from deposed leader Hosni Mubarak's regime.

"There is no judgment except by God. Allah is great, Allah is great," and "You are from the corrupt era, you are from the former regime," they shouted at the judge.

Shamy ended the day's session, the first in the trial, by saying the defendants' lawyers had requested more time to prepare the case for the group, which includes two former army officers. The trial would resume 15 June, he said.

The state security prosecutor said in February that the accused men had formed an extremist organisation that advocated sedition against Egypt's authorities and public sector workers.

The suspects, one of whom is Tunisian, were also charged with possession of weapons and explosives.

Only 17 of the suspects were present in court. Nine escaped arrest and are being tried in absentia.

The state news agency MENA said in February that Taha Abdel Salam, one of the two former officers, was accused of being a major recruiter for the group, and had been suspended from the army in 2002 for having links to militants.

MENA said that the defendants belonged to militant cells in Cairo suburbs and lived in rented apartments under false names. In October, one suspect was killed when he opened fire on security forces raiding cells in a Nasr City suburb.

Two years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak, Egypt's Islamist rulers are contending with a rise in militant activity, especially in the Sinai region that borders Israel and Gaza, while struggling to contain protests that often turn violent.

Domestic turmoil and the smuggling of weapons from Libya after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi have created a security vacuum. In August last year, 16 Egyptian border guards were killed in Islamist militant attacks in Sinai.

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