Minister Denies U.S. Embassy Had Role in Uncovering Terrorists
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egypt’s top security official denied lawyers’ assertions Wednesday that U.S. rather than Egyptian investigators uncovered a terror group charged with attacking American and Israeli diplomats.
The defense lawyers’ goal appeared to be to embarrass Interior Minister Zaki Badr and the government.
Badr’s rare appearance on a state security court subpoena was to elicit testimony on the investigation of 20 alleged members of an organization calling itself Egypt’s Revolution.
The defendants are charged with murder, attempted murder and criminal complicity in four shootings between 1984 and 1987 that killed two Israeli diplomats and wounded six Israelis and two U.S. diplomats.
All 20 defendants were present except Khaled Abdel Nasser, eldest son of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. He is reportedly living in Yugoslavia.
Badr’s ministry handles Egypt’s internal security.
During his 70-minute testimony, Badr denied repeatedly that defendant Essam Nour el-Din went to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in 1987 to confess and was questioned there for more than two weeks before being surrendered to Egyptian authorities.
Defense attorneys contended that before the Americans gave them Nour el- Din, Badr’s investigators had no clue to the terrorist group, whose attacks had greatly embarrassed the government.
″Essam Nour el-Din told state security authorities that he had information about these cases in the middle of August 1987,″ Badr told the court. ″Authorities checked his story and made their investigations.″
Defense lawyer Adel Amin alleged that President Hosni Mubarak formed a committee, which included Badr, to investigate Egypt’s Revolution on the basis of information from the U.S. Embassy centering on Nour el-Din’s statements.
″I am sure that no decision was ever made to create such a committee. Therefore I could not possibly have been a member of it,″ Badr said.
After Badr left, Nour el-Din testified that he went to the U.S. Embassy and made statements to officials there.
Embassy spokeswoman Marcelle Wahba refused comment on the two men’s testimony.
Amin cited purportedly official papers to show that Nour el-Din went to the embassy Aug. 15, 1987, and that security authorities were informed of the case Sept. 6. Nevertheless, Amin said, defendant Khaled Abdel Nasser was able to leave Egypt on Sept. 10.
″When someone makes an accusation, just an accusation, should I prevent people from traveling abroad without my having proof and without going through the judicial authorities?″ Badr responded.
The prosecution has demanded the death penalty for 11 defendants, including Nasser, who was charged with murder, attempted murder, undermining Egypt’s national security and damaging its relations with Israel and the United States.
The remaining nine, among them a nephew of President Nasser, are charged with complicity and could be sentenced to prison terms of up to 25 years.
Eleven defendants are in custody. The rest are free on bail.