CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Alleged members of the outlawed militant group Jihad pleaded innocent Thursday to charges of terrorism and trying to topple the government.

The 44 defendants who appeared in court Thursday belong to a group of 107 alleged Jihad members. The rest of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Among those being tried in absentia are Ayman el-Zawahri, allegedly a close aide of Osama bin Laden. The United States has accused bin Laden of masterminding the August bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

El-Zawahri is the leader of Jihad, or holy war, which was responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He is said to be hiding in Afghanistan, where bin Laden also lives.

During Thursday's two-hour session, the defendants asked for time to perform the Islamic noon prayers. The judge, whose name is withheld in security cases, consented.

The judge also said a doctor could examine the bodies of 11 defendants who said they had been tortured in detention.

The 44 pleaded innocent to trying to topple the secular government of President Hosni Mubarak and to charges of terror, criminal conspiracy, membership in an outlawed group, and plotting to carry out attacks on officials and police.

Jihad and the larger insurgent force, the Islamic Group, have been fighting since 1992 to replace the government with strict Islamic rule. More than 1,200 people have died in the insurgency.

Human rights groups have repeatedly called on the government to stop trying alleged subversives in military courts. Rights activists say such courts do not conform to international standards of due process.

The trial was scheduled to resume Feb. 13.