Egypt's feared military leader blames embassy attack for his no-show at Mubarak's trial

Egypt's military ruler failed to make his eagerly anticipated appearance at the trial of the deposed leader Hosni Mubarak yesterday, blaming the continuing fallout from the dramatic siege of the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, once a close Mubarak ally, postponed his closed-doors evidence that many had hoped would prove critical in convicting Mr Mubarak of conspiring to kill unarmed protesters after the start of the uprising in January. The delay is likely to dismay many Egyptians, who have repeatedly called for faster political reform and swift justice for members of the ousted ruling elite, months after massive pro-democracy demonstrations swept the Mubarak regime from power. The former Defence Minister will now appear before the court on 24 September, according to Egyptian media.

On Friday protests demanding swifter political reform quickly descended into chaos, when an angry mob converged on the Israeli embassy, rampaging through the building and clashing with police in the second incident in a few weeks. Egyptian commandos rescued diplomatic staff from the furious mob.

In the wake of the attack, Mr Tantawi said he was busy with security issues and offered to provide written testimony to the court instead, a proposal rejected by the judge. The delay could also indicate a reluctance by Mr Tantawi, described in a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks as "Mubarak's poodle", to give evidence against an old friend with whom he was closely linked in decades of repressive rule.

There is also a fear by some senior officials that the trial, which is being conducted behind closed doors under a media blackout, could potentially implicate members of the interim military authority in the crackdown that left nearly 900 dead.

Many ordinary Egyptians remain deeply sceptical that Mr Mubarak, 83, and his political allies will be convicted. The Egyptian authorities are already suspected of drawing out the case, and several police witnesses have recanted earlier statements.

Mr Tantawi's evidence has been sought because he hinted previously that the army had defied orders to fire on protesters. Mr Mubarak, who is also accused of corruption and abuse of power, has pleaded not guilty.

Both Israel and Egypt appeared keen to avoid a prolonged diplomatic crisis over the embassy attack, with Israeli officials playing down reports that Egyptian officials initially ignored Israeli pleas for intervention. The United States, which has provided Egypt with billions of dollars in military aid, finally demanded that Egypt protect the Israeli mission. "When push came to shove, [the Egyptians] did come to the fore," an Israeli official said.

Egypt bolstered security around the embassy yesterday as the two countries discussed ways to reopen the mission after Israel's ambassador and most of its embassy staff were airlifted out. Israel said it wanted to send its envoy back, but first required assurances about security.

Egypt's military council has struggled to contain domestic anger towards Israel, which has intensified since Israeli forces killed five Egyptian border guards following a cross-border terror attack last month. Nearly 20 people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the embassy, which left three dead and hundreds injured.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there