EGYPT: Prosecution demands death penalty for six in 'Hezbollah cell'
The prosecutor for Egypt's state security office is seeking the death penalty for six of the 26 alleged Hezbollah operatives on trial for alleged conspiracy and terrorism.
In a hearing Tuesday, the prosecutor called the defendants "traitors" who formed a terrorist cell on behalf of Lebanon's Shiite militant organization to plot attacks against foreign and local targets inside Egypt. The prosecutor, Amr Farouk, suggested that Hezbollah's plans inside Egypt are being aided by the Shiite regime of Iran.
"Plotting those attacks came from another country that wants to seize its control over the Arab and Islamic world, and Hezbollah is just a tool for executing this foreign country's mean interests," Farouk said.
Cairo's supreme state security court decided to postpone its final verdict on the case until Feb. 20. Eighteen Egyptians, five Palestinians, two Lebanese and one man from Sudan are indicted of conspiring with Hezbollah for the purpose of attacking Israeli tourists in Egypt, bombing ships in the Suez Canal, and building tunnels for smuggling weapons to and from the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian authorities captured most of the suspects in a series of operations that began in November 2008. Some of the accused first admitted planning attacks against Israeli tourists, before recanting by saying that they were only working to help Palestinians in Gaza and had no intention of harming Egyptian interests.
The trial has been marred by accusations that prisoners have been tortured. Defense lawyers said that referring the cases to a state security court -- set up under Egypt's emergency rules, which have been in effect since 1981 -- deprived the accused of legal rights, including the right to appeal the court's ruling.
Meanwhile, another Cairo court rejected a case filed by a lawyer seeking to block the broadcast of Hezbollah's television channel, Al Manar, in Egypt. Mahmoud Sabri filed his case after the indictment of the "Hezbollah cell," saying that the channel helps promote the Lebanese group's hidden agenda in Egypt.
The court said Sabri failed to present enough evidence to support his case, adding that the channel poses no threat to Egypt's national security.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: The accused during their trial. Credit: Reuters