CAIRO (Reuters) - Lawyers called on Egypt’s government on Sunday to hand over documents that may reveal who ordered police to fire on protesters during the uprising that unseated President Hosni Mubarak, leaving more than 850 people dead.
The demand came during the trials of Egypt’s reviled former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli and deposed Mubarak over the killings, which have captivated Egyptians with real-life drama to trump the most popular Ramadan-season TV soap operas.
Adli was in charge of a massive security apparatus blamed for systematic rights abuses and the smothering of all opposition to Mubarak’s 29-year rule.
The ex-minister and six of his lieutenants, who are charged with the killings and corruption, watched from the court’s steel cage on Sunday as dozens of lawyers for the plaintiffs jostled toward the judge’s bench to list their demands.
All seven defendants face the death penalty if convicted over the killings.
Tension pervaded the busy courtroom.
Security men struggled to keep order as the family of a dead protester scuffled with relatives of a dead police officer whose photo was held up to commemorate his death.
The protester’s family demanded that the photo be removed, saying the officer was a killer not a victim.
“The judge abruptly ended the session which got out of hand because of over-enthusiasm and rising emotions,” Gameel Saeed, representing one top officer accused with Adli, told Reuters.
Judge Ahmed Refaat set the next hearing for September 5. Mubarak’s trial resumes on Monday.
The trials of Adli and Mubarak, who appeared in court on August 3 and denied any role in the killings, have gripped audiences across a region dominated by Mubarak-style autocrats.
Police fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas as the protests spread inexorably across the country of 80 million. On February 2, Mubarak loyalists mounted on camels and horses charged into protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Amir Hamdy Salem, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, demanded to see all communication between Mubarak and Adli stored in the presidential palace and Mubarak’s residence.
He demanded written correspondence and records of calls between Mubarak and his ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman kept in Egyptian intelligence headquarters.
He also requested log books showing orders given by Adli and Hasan Abdel Rahman, the head of state security, to officers trained as snipers as well as logs of the ammunition used.
“Regarding the request to continue to view evidence, the court will consider it,” said judge Refaat.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs also requested testimony from the chief executives of mobile phone firms Mobinil, Etisalat and Vodafone Egypt.
The government shut down telecom services during the uprising as activists sought to build critical mass for the demonstrations using text messaging, Facebook and Twitter.
“What is already available in existing files does not fully make clear who gave the order to cut communication,” Salem said.
Tarek El Awady, director of the Egyptian Museum by Tahrir Square, said taped security camera footage that captured the camel attack was sent to the military council and investigative bodies, the state news agency MENA reported on Saturday.
As security chief, Adli was the target of animosity from much of the population. But many Egyptians were unsure whether the ruling military council would subject former army officer Mubarak to the humiliation of a public trial.
That only heightened the drama of his appearance this month in the courtroom, lying in a hospital bed and flanked by his sons Alaa and Gamal, who many Egyptians believed had been groomed to succeed his father as head of state.
Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Sarah Mikhail; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer