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Amnesty wants observers at Egypt Islamists’ trial
Amnesty wants observers at Egypt Islamists’ trial
Global rights group Amnesty International has urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to allow independent observers at the trial by a military court of 40 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
Saturday, August 4,2007 00:00
MERIP

Global rights group Amnesty International has urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to allow independent observers at the trial by a military court of 40 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
"We look to President Mubarak, as Egypt"s highest authority, to open the doors to this important trial," Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan said in a statement ahead of Sunday"s latest hearing.
"He should clear the way for it to receive the scrutiny it deserves," she said.
The 40 activists on trial at a military base include the organization"s number three, Khayrat Al Shater.   
They are accused of funding an illegal organization and money-laundering - charges they were originally acquitted from in a civil court.
"We unreservedly oppose the Egyptian government"s use of military courts to try civilians," Khan said.
"In Egypt"s military courts judges are serving members of the armed forces and military courts cannot be seen as independent and impartial tribunals for civilians.
"Their use for highly-charged political cases - such as the current trial of leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood - suggests that the defendants may be denied a fair trial."
International observers, including former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, have already been barred from attending previous hearings of the trial.
"What does the government of Egypt fear? What is it ashamed of doing that it cannot do in broad daylight as the law requires?" Clark, 79, told reporters at the Egyptian Bar Association July 16.
Over the past 10 years, Mubarak"s government has repeatedly relied on military tribunals, which have a more consistent rate of conviction, to try members of Islamist organizations.
The verdicts of military courts have no right of appeal.
Journalists and diplomatic observers were allowed access to military trials in the 1990s, but in recent years they have been open only to lawyers and immediate family members of the accused.
The latest crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which began last December, has targeted the organization"s funding, freezing its assets and arresting prominent businessmen associated with the movement.
The group has more than a fifth of the seats in Egypt"s parliament, but its representatives sit as independents because of its illegal status.


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