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Witness in 2011 cabinet clashes trial claims Sabbahi 'offered bribe' to help Douma

Witness claims presidential contender Hamdeen Sabbahi tried to bribe him over video allegedly showing leading activist Ahmed Douma attacking security personnel and torching buildings

Ahram Online , Thursday 20 Mar 2014
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Egypt's Presidential Hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi (Photo: AP)
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The trial of 269 protesters arrested during the December 2011 clashes in front of the Egyptian government's headquarters resumed on Thursday and was adjourned to 1 April, but not before a tense courtroom session was played out in which presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi was accused of bribing a witness.

Thursday's session was the ninth in an ongoing trial in which the defendants stand accused of attacking the cabinet's offices and security personnel and torching the nearby Scientific Institute.

The December 2011 clashes erupted after security forces violently dispersed a sit-in outside the cabinet's headquarters.

At least 17 people were killed and over a thousand injured in the resulting clashes that spanned five days.

Lawyers at Thursday's session were tweeting live during the proceedings and news reports of the trial pulled directly from their posts.

Two witnesses were called in the session, according to the lawyers' tweets.

The first denied seeing any clashes at all.

The second, however, claimed that he was in possession of a video showing leading activist Ahmed Douma attacking security forces and torching the Scientific Institute.

In a surprise twist, the witness claimed that Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi, who has announced his intentions for Egypt's presidency, offered to pay him LE20,000 not to show the video incriminating Douma in court.

Douma, among the 269 defendants in the case, is a member of the Egyptian Popular Current, Sabbahi's political movement.

Douma and April 6 Youth Movement co-founders Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel are currently in prison on three-year sentences for organising illegal protests and attacking security forces last November. Douma, Maher and Adel are currently appealing the court ruling.

The claims by the second witness on Thursday mark the first instance that Sabbahi's name has been mentioned in the two years' that the trial has been ongoing.

Sabbahi is set to officially enter Egypt's upcoming presidential elections, which will likely see him squaring off against defence minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, widely expected to win the polls, although he has yet to declare his candidacy.

The defence team on Thursday argued that the witness who brought forth the Sabbahi bribery allegations was lying and had testified in a similar way in a previous case for which he was later proven to be a false witness.

Douma, present during the proceedings, asked the judge if he could challenge the witness's statements but was denied.

Douma also told reporters in the courtroom that he had been beaten by security forces while being transported from his jail cell. He made a similar statement two weeks ago during an appeals trial, when he alleged that he, Maher and and Adel had all been beaten by security forces upon their arrival in court.

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