After the request for new judges, the court ordered the trial suspended until Oct. 30. But if the lawyers’ motion is granted by an appeals court — a ruling that could come as soon as Monday — weeks of testimony would need to start again from scratch.
The trial began Aug. 3 with shocking images of Mubarak being wheeled into court on a medical stretcher. Saturday’s dramatic twist came after Tantawi took the stand in a highly charged atmosphere, with Mubarak supporters and relatives of many of the 800 people killed during the uprising rallying outside the heavily guarded Cairo police academy, where the trial is taking place.
Tantawi appeared under a court-ordered media blackout, with journalists and cameras barred from the courtroom and with the details of his testimony shrouded in official secrecy. Although some lauded the court’s willingness to compel such a high-level official to testify — practically unheard of in Arab nations — there were clues Saturday that Tantawi’s words did not prove as damning to Mubarak as activists had hoped.
First, the morning proceedings were suddenly moved up by 90 minutes without informing the victims’ attorneys, who were kept outside by at least 45 minutes of security procedures during Tantawi’s hour and a half of testimony, according to Amir Salem, one of the lawyers who was in the courtroom. In contrast, defense attorneys were permitted to enter the courtroom immediately to hear Tantawi’s entire testimony, Salem said.
“The goal was to prevent lawyers [for the families] from attending,” Salem said.
Judges asked Tantawi 10 questions, but the two questions submitted by prosecutors were rejected as inappropriate. In addition, attorneys for victims’ families were not permitted to question Tantawi, Salem said.
Salem and other lawyers connected to the case declined to directly characterize Tantawi’s testimony, fearing that they might be held in contempt of court. But immediately after Tantawi’s testimony, they expressed their strong disapproval of the proceedings by filing their request for another panel of judges to hear the case.
“There were many reasons [for filing the motion]. It was partly because of Tantawi’s testimony and also because of the way the attorneys were treated when they attempted to get into the courtroom to listen to the field marshal’s statement,” Salem said. “The court’s way of treating us, in general, is just not good at all.”