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Lawyers in Egypt's Hezbollah spy trial quit

Lawyers in Egypt's Hezbollah spy trial quit

Defense lawyers for a trial in Egypt of two dozen people charged with spying for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah quit Wednesday after claiming the court was not impartial, judicial officials and the lawyers said.
The 26 suspects, including Egyptians, Palestinians and Lebanese, face charges of spying for a foreign group, planning attacks against tourists and shipping in the Suez Canal and sending operatives and explosives to Gaza to help militant groups there.
They went on trial August 23 in front of an Emergency State Security Court.
Egypt's emergency courts have long been criticized by local and international rights groups for allowing looser standards of evidence and not following due process. Their rulings cannot be appealed.
Judicial officials said the lawyers quit after the chief judge rejected their demand for the case to be reviewed by another court
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
Prosecutors argued that Egypt has the right to refer defendants to any court it sees fit.
Montasser al-Zayat, a defense lawyer, confirmed that the legal teams suspended their participation in the court session because they the court is "not impartial."
"We had our doubts about the court and now they proved right," he said.
He said the lawyers will return if the court accepts their demands, including allowing families of the defendants to attend the closed door trial.
In April, Egyptian security officials said they had uncovered a Hezbollah cell plotting to destabilize the country.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has admitted sending an agent to supervise weapons shipments to Hamas in Gaza, but he has denied seeking to harm Egypt's security.
Prosecutors said 18 of the suspects provided Hezbollah with information about Suez Canal schedules, security details as well as information about tourist destinations in the Sinai Peninsula.
At least three of the suspects were also charged with digging tunnels under Egypt's border with Gaza with the intention of smuggling people and goods. Others are charged with providing safehouses for militants who snuck across the border
The suspects include two Lebanese and five Palestinians.
According to the prosecutors, the Lebanese in the group provided the cell with money and technical expertise to collect information and acquire explosives to destabilize Egypt's security.
This is the first time Egypt has charged people involved in the smuggling trade with Gaza. Israel has long complained that Egypt is not doing enough to stop the smuggling of weapons and people through tunnels running beneath the border.
Since the Islamic militant group Hamas wrested control of Gaza from rival Palestinian faction Fatah, Egypt and Israel have imposed an economic and travel blockade on the seaside territory.


Updated : 2021-05-08 10:19 GMT+08:00