CAIRO (Reuters) - A court postponed on Monday the trial of Egypt’s former interior minister over the killing of protesters until next week so that he will be tried alongside ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The ruling followed a weekend of clashes involving protesters demanding swifter reforms and faster prosecution of Mubarak and his officials. Demonstrators clashed with stone-throwing men who blocked a march to the Defence Ministry.
Many Egyptians believe the army is reluctant to speed up the trial of Mubarak, its former commander-in-chief, and say it wants to prevent his public humiliation. They also accuse the army of delaying other reforms.
Judge Adel Abdel-Salam ordered the trial of Habib al-Adli be postponed until August 3 so it was “joined with the case related to the trial of the former President Hosni Mubarak”, adding that the evidence and charges were the same.
Six others in the Adli case will be tried on the same day.
Sources had earlier said Mubarak’s trial could be held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. But merging the case with Adli and other officials could complicate moving the trial from Cairo as all defendants may have to be in the same court, legal experts said.
“The cases have been merged together: where Mubarak is tried, Adli is tried,” Judge Ahmed Mekky, the deputy head of Egypt’s Appeal Court, said.
Further delays in the case or shifting it to another place could stoke public anger as many Egyptians are particularly keen to see Adli convicted after police used live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas to try to quash anti-Mubarak demonstrations.
Some protesters at the court on the outskirts of Cairo on Monday hurled stones at the police van driving away Adli, who had stood in the cage for defendants during Monday’s session.
“Why did they postpone the trial today? We are tired of this never-ending postponement. The son of my brother died in the revolution; who will give us our rights ... if the court keeps postponing trials of those who killed him?” asked Mohamed Abdou, who was outside the court.
Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, have been charged in connection with the killing of demonstrators. About 850 died in the 18-day uprising that ousted the president on February 11.
‘WHY TAKE ALL THIS TIME?’
Mubarak, 83, has been in hospital since April, in Sharm el-Sheikh. His two sons are being held in a Cairo prison.
“I am against the postponement. Why take all this time?” said Foad Kamal, who works in a supermarket chain. He had come to the court expecting a verdict.
About 300 people were injured in Cairo on Saturday when thousands of demonstrators fought opponents with stones on a march to the Defence Ministry to urge the ruling military council to speed up reforms.
Activists blamed the violence on thugs who they said were encouraged by the authorities.
The army has dismissed the charges and said it did not use force against demonstrators. Military police, armed with Tasers and batons, held back protesters as police fired tear gas.
“What happened on Saturday was a planned attack against peaceful protesters who aim to keep up pressure on the military council to bring about faster reforms,” said Mohamed Fahmy, a member of the Youth Coalition of the Revolution.
“We will continue to muster people on the street next Friday. We will respond in peaceful protest to Saturday’s events,” Fahmy said.
Protesters have increasingly criticised the army and arranged coordinated demonstrations in Cairo and the port cities of Alexandria and Suez.
The cabinet pledged on Monday to clear out officials who held senior posts in Mubarak’s era, continue with public trials and press on with other reforms, such as setting a maximum wage for higher paid officials within a month.
Five police officers were referred to trial for inciting violence on February2, when Mubarak loyalists charged protesters in Tahrir Square on camels and horses, a judicial source said.
Separately, the military prosecution questioned former prime minister Ahmed Nazif over a charge of facilitating the sale of army land to a businessman, the state news agency said.