Jailed British Muslims' trial delayed until late March

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The Independent Online

Three British Muslims held in jail in Egyptfor almost two years will have to spend at least another three months behind bars after a court appearance scheduled for yesterday was delayed yet again.

Reza Pankhurst, Maajid Nawaz and Ian Nisbet claim they were tortured into signing false confessions they could not read after they were arrested in April 2002 and accused of working for a banned Islamic group.

Verdicts were expected yesterday in the Emergency High State Security Court, Cairo, but the judge adjourned the case to March 25. Mr Nisbet, 29, and Mr Pankhurst, 28, both from London, and 26-year-old Mr Nawaz, from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, were accused of attempting to revive Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Liberation Party.

The three - all married with children - were charged with promoting the group's goals, including the overthrow of the Egyptian government in a post-11 September. The authorities claim that Hizb-ut-Tahrir was banned in Egypt after an attempted coup in 1974, although the men argue the group was never banned in law.

"It is pressure, abuse and punishment for innocent people who are not guilty of any crime," said Hodan Pankhurst, wife of Mr Pankhurst.

The families of the three men have repeatedly appealed to the Egyptian government for their release and last week accused Tony Blair of "hypocrisy" for taking his family to Egypt on holiday, as they claimed his actions "endorsed" the imprisonment of the men.