Egypt court adjourns US activists' trial

2012-02-26 18:02

Cairo - An Egyptian court adjourned the trial of dozens of democracy activists including 16 Americans on Sunday at the opening session of a case that has threatened ties between Cairo and Washington and $1.3bn in annual US military aid.

Forty-three foreign and Egyptian non-profit workers - including the son of the US transportation secretary - are accused of receiving illegal funds from abroad and carrying out political activities unrelated to their civil society work.

Judge Mahmud Mohamed Shukry adjourned the trial until April 26 at the end of the session in the rowdy chamber, where television reporters crowded around him and an interior ministry official threatened to expel journalists.

His decision could give more time for a diplomatic solution to the case, lawyers said.

"The time set allows for the NGO law to be amended and this could leave room for lawyers to argue that the defendants are not guilty. A fine may be demanded, however," said Khaled Suleiman, a lawyer acting against the defendants.

In the crowded courtroom on the outskirts of Cairo, lawyers who said they were volunteering in the case against the activists, demanded the defendants be imprisoned and accused them of "espionage".

"These organisations are accused of espionage and going against the law. Most of them are in contact with the CIA. These organisations gathered information and reports on Egypt and sent them to the US state department," the lawyer Suleiman said.

Judge Shukry said the defendants were free to leave the court and would not be held in detention until the next hearing.

Those accused in the case were banned from leaving Egypt pending the trial and some of the U.S. citizens targeted in the probe have taken refuge at the American embassy.