Egypt court delays hearing on request to drop Mubarak panel

CAIRO Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:46am EDT

Supporters of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak shout outside the police academy, where Mubarak's trial is taking place, in Cairo September 24, 2011.   REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Supporters of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak shout outside the police academy, where Mubarak's trial is taking place, in Cairo September 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court postponed hearing a demand to change the panel presiding over a case against ousted President Hosni Mubarak until December, potentially delaying the trial into whether he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators.

Some of the lawyers representing families of those killed in an uprising against Mubarak's rule have demanded changes to the panel after complaining that it had failed to give them adequate time to question a key witness.

They said that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the army council now ruling Egypt, gave testimony at an earlier time than scheduled and had not been cross-examined by them.

The appeals court on Saturday adjourned its hearing until December 26, saying it needed to review Judge Ahmed Refaat's record and background, specifically requesting details of any consultancy positions he was involved in.

Egyptian judges are often used by government ministries or bodies, a practice that critics say has often brought the objectivity of some judges into doubt.

Judge Refaat has a reputation of working by the book and following procedures. He has been praised for his independence by the media.

The court had previously requested the minutes of Mubarak's trial to check the "legality of the court's proceedings."

Mubarak's trial is on hold until October 30, but the case is unlikely to resume until a verdict on changing the panel is issued, a delay that will add to public frustration over the pace of the trial.

(Writing by Dina Zayed)

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