The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Nor Trial Postponed

Amir Salim --  Nor's lead defense attorney

Today, in the third day of Ayman Nor's trial, judge Adil Abd al-Salam Guma postponed the trial until the 25th of September. This is two-and-a-half weeks after Egypt's scheduled presidential elections on 7 September.

The immediate repercussions of today's announcement suggest that Ayman will officially be a candidate in those elections, where he will presumably run against president Mubarak.

Today's hearing was short and sweet. My group got into the courtroom around 1030. The trial started a little before 11am and concluded an hour later.

Today, Ayman Ismail Hassan (defendant number 3) officially stated before the judge that he was taking back his confession from 28 June that said Ayman ordered them to forge party membership lists. Hassan surprised the court last Thursday when he announced to the media that the government was pressuring him to testify against Nor. But, because the retraction was not officially included in the courtroom minutes, it did not count. So, as of this morning, Hassan's recantation is official.

The question on some people's minds this morning is why delay the trial until the end of September. According to the head of Ayman's defense team, Amir Salim, the court that is overseeing the case only works the last week of every month. Today's session was extra-ordinary. So rather than delaying it until the end of July or resuming two weeks before the presidential elections, the judge opted for the end of September.

The proscecution has bearly said a word in the court to this date.

The defense team basically argued that they needed more time to prepare their case. Gamila Ismail, Ghad spokesperson and Ayman's wife, seemed unpleased with the delay due to statements she made to the press following the judge's announcement.

Today, there were loads of plain-clothes security in the courtroom. Most milled in the back of the courtroom while others photographed those in attendance. I recognized one of State-Security's photographers from the weekly demos.

Useless Anecdote:

When leaving the courthouse today, we were waiting in the street for a taxi to take us to a coffee shop to get a caffine fix. A interior ministry guy with the eagle and two stars on his epaulet asked if we wanted a taxi. As we stood back, he hailed us a cab and politely saw us off.

Now that is wasta...


Other related Ayman trial tidbits:

Defendant Number 5, Mervat Sabr, has gone to the police and alleged that Nor tried to bribe her to recant her story. Whether this is the state encouraging her to make such an allegation to smear Hassan's recantation or whether Nor did this is unknown. It seems unlikely to be the latter. Ayman, on a legal basis, seems to have the upper-hand against the state for the time being.

There has been some speculation that Hassan was bought off by Nor in the days following his surprise reversal last Thursday. I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to substantiate or rubbish this claim.

Amir Salim and his defense team look to be tackling the case based on the numerous procedural errors that the state made in the lead-up and aftermath of Ayman's detention on 29 January. This focus on procedural mishandling was the same strategy used in the Saad Eddin Ibrahim defense, which proved unsuccessful until it reached the Egypt's highest appeals court (Court of Cassations).

The defense team are also looking to untangle the relationship of Ismail Zakaraya Abd al-Latif (known to Ghad founders between March 04-January 05 as Diaa Zakaraya Abd al-Latif) and the head of the checks and fraud department in the Ministry of Interior Adil Yassin.

At any rate, in between now and the next court session, there is more time to prepare the cases on both sides as well as the early September presidential elections.