CAIRO, Egypt—Talaat Sadat, the nephew of the late President Anwar Sadat, said Sunday that he feared he'd be convicted in an unfair trial for suggesting that Egyptian generals and Islamists were involved in a conspiracy to assassinate his uncle 25 years ago.
Sadat, a member of parliament, was brought before a military court for insulting senior figures of the armed forces after he claimed the assassination of Anwar Sadat was planned internally.
The case has Egyptians talking because Sadat is a critic of the national government. Egypt, a key U.S. Arab ally that receives nearly $2 billion in U.S. aid per year, recently has rolled back some moves toward democracy. Earlier this year, an Egyptian court rejected the appeal of Ayman Nour, an opposition figure who placed a distant second in last year's presidential election. Nour is serving a five-year sentence on forgery charges, which his supporters say were trumped up by the government.
The government moved against the late president's nephew after he appeared on a satellite television program this month and discussed conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination. His lawyer said Sadat was charged with "insulting senior figures in the armed forces and questioning their integrity."
"No one from the special personal protection group of the late president fired a single shot during the killing, and not one of them has been put on trial," Sadat said in the interview on the Saudi-owned satellite station Orbit.
In that interview and others, Sadat implicated the Egyptian armed forces and Islamist groups. He also suggested there might have been a plot against Sadat by Israel and the United States.
Egyptian soldiers who were members of the militant Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya assassinated Anwar Sadat on Oct. 6, 1981, while he was attending a military ceremony. The militants opposed Sadat's 1979 peace treaty with Israel and his use of force in the imprisonment of religious fundamentalists and activists.
On Sunday, after a four-hour trial session, Talaat Sadat criticized the government for how it was handling the case against him.
"So far, it doesn't look good," he told a group of supporters outside the courthouse. "After today's trial I am truly worried. This case is well and truly stitched up. They have everything exactly as they want it and they are not allowing me to defend myself."
Sadat has denied the charges. He ran an advertisement last week in the government-backed newspaper al-Akhbar that expressed his "respect and admiration" of the armed forces and its leader, President Hosni Mubarak.
"I was once a soldier of the armed forces. How can I disrespect them?" Sadat said on Sunday. "I disapprove that Minister of Defense Hussein Tantawi and the armed forces accept this fabricated case."
"I have major doubts about the integrity of this case," said Montasser Zayat, a prominent lawyer who is defending Sadat. The defense portion of the trial will begin Wednesday.
"The court has already struck out our key witnesses including the show's host, moderator and two of the late president's security team who bore witness to the assassination," the defense lawyer said. "They have also ruled out the inclusion of taped evidence of both the assassination and the Orbit show Sadat spoke on."
If convicted, Sadat will lose his seat in parliament and face a maximum of five years in prison.
The charges were brought by the Interior Ministry. Sadat and Zayat said they believed the case stems from ill will between the ministry and Sadat over a murder trial.
Sadat successfully defended a man whom the Interior Ministry had charged with serial murders in the village of Minya, about 150 miles south of Cairo.
"If people weren't afraid of the Interior Ministry you would have seen the streets full of people today," said Abd Al-Nabi Taha, a Sadat supporter. "We are living in a prison. They don't want to hear a word of truth."
One woman awaiting the trial of a family member, who refused to give her name for fear of political trouble, said she was not aware that the Sadat trial was taking place.
"You have to understand that anyone you speak to is going to retain some form of self-censorship," she said. If someone like Sadat can be prosecuted, "what would happen if one of us spoke up?"
(El Naggar and Adwan are McClatchy Newspapers special correspondents in Cairo.)
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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