Tantawi testimony leaked online despite court injunction

Zeinab El Gundy, Monday 26 Sep 2011

Judge's gag order fails to prevent the appearance online of what activists believe is the field-marshal's testimony in Mubarak case

Field Marshal Tantawy
Field Marshal Tantawy

In recent days, thousands of Egyptian users of social-networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have been sharing what they believe to be court testimony delivered by Field-Marshal Hussein Tantawi in the ongoing trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Tantawi delivered his testimony in a closed-door court session on Saturday.

His testimony initially appeared - in written form - on the Twitter accounts of several Egyptian journalists before spreading like wildfire across Facebook and the blogosphere. It remains unknown, however, whether or not the statements attributed to Tantawi coincide with the field-marshal's actual court testimony.

If the testimony is genuine, its appearance online would represent a serious breach of a gag order on all court proceedings issued late last month by presiding judge Ahmed Refaat.

Despite the order, thousands of Egyptian online activists have shared Tantawi's alleged statements within recent days. It remains unknown until now who was initially responsible for leaking - or fabricating - the testimony.

So far there has been no official reaction to the leak, with the government neither confirming nor denying the veracity of the alleged testimony.

Activists are nevertheless encouraging the public to spread Tantawi's alleged statements far and wide. "No one will be able to determine the exact source of the leak among the thousands of users of social media," according to one Twitter user.

Activists and bloggers insist that they never intended to break the law, but simply wanted to register their objection to the de facto news blackout in what's become known as Egypt's trial of the century. They assert that the public has the right to know what's being said in court concerning the death of unarmed protesters during Egypt's recent revolution.

If authentic, the appearance of Tantawi's testimony online has not been the first violation of the judge's gag order.

Earlier this month, a pro-Mubarak Facebook page published testimony allegedly delivered by former spy chief Omar Suleiman only hours after the latter's appearance in court. Although Suleiman's alleged testimony was quickly removed, the page's administrator defended his actions by asserting that the gag order had been imposed on the media but not on unofficial social-networking platforms.

Meanwhile, testimony by Chief-of-Staff Sami Anan, the number-two man in Egypt's ruling military council, was recently postponed to next month after lawyers for the prosecution requested the recusal of the presiding judge.  

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