Egypt trial focuses on attacks on protesters

Posted: September 09, 2011

CAIRO - A former high-ranking security official testified Thursday that forces loyal to Hosni Mubarak were ordered to use excessive force to crush protests in the early days of a revolution that would later topple the president.

The police general's testimony said the order came from then-Interior Minister Habib Adli, an accusation that suggests the highest levels of the Mubarak government plotted the crackdown that killed more than 800 people between Jan. 25 and Feb. 11. It was unclear whether Adli called for firing live ammunition.

The comments were a boost to the prosecution, which in recent days has been embarrassed by police witnesses who recanted earlier statements that had implicated the regime. Mubarak, who watched the proceedings from a defendant's cage, is on trial for alleged complicity to commit murder. Adli and six senior Interior Ministry officials face similar charges.

Gen. Hassan Abdel Hamid told the court he attended a meeting with Adli and others Jan. 27. He said Adli ordered that the nation's cellphone and Internet services be disrupted. Other top officials urged police on Cairo's streets to drive their vehicles into demonstrators.

"The decision was to stop protesters from entering Tahrir Square, even if by using force," said Hamid, who was Adli's top aide until he was fired in January for objecting to the Interior Ministry's tactics.

Hamid testified that he didn't hear directives to shoot protesters, but "without a doubt, some officers, I don't know whether by orders or not, provided their forces with bird-shot rounds."

He said Adli would have had to have authorized the use of such excessive force, including snipers. Hamid gave the court videos of police shooting protesters and running them over with security vehicles. Adli and Mubarak have denied they called for such actions.

The trial was adjourned until Sunday, when Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, top general in the ruling military council, will testify in private. He has been a Mubarak confidant for decades.

Egypt's military, meanwhile, has frozen new licenses for private satellite TV stations and is taking steps against broadcasters they say are inciting violence - restrictions activists say harken to Mubarak's rule. Communication Minister Osama Heikal said the satellite-licensing decision stemmed from concerns about violence being incited. He said the freeze was temporary.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.


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