Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Mubarak’s former top officials appear in court

AP and AFP, CAIRO

An angry crowd of hundreds taunted three former high-ranking members of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime as they arrived in court for a corruption hearing on Wednesday.

The three former top officials who appeared in a Cairo Criminal Court — former housing minister Ahmed Maghrabi, former tourism minister Zuheir Garana and steel tycoon and prominent ruling party leader Ahmed Ezz — wore white prison uniforms and sat in a metal cage as a judge issued a ruling blocking any commercial dealings in the men’s properties.

Maghrabi shouted out from behind the cage: “I will not be a scapegoat. I am innocent.”

Ezz and Garana also said they are innocent.

The trio, who face allegations that range from money laundering to abuse of authority and squandering state wealth, are among some dozen ex-ministers and businessmen who are under investigation.

The protesters who ousted Mubarak in 18 days of demonstrations against his regime often mentioned the deep corruption of the government as a key reason behind their movement.

The popular anger felt against such former regime powerbrokers was evident on Wednesday. As the vehicles carrying Maghrabi, Garana and Ezz drove through the streets of Cairo to the courthouse, dozens of cars followed them honking and people chanted “there are the thieves.”

When the men arrived at court, more than 500 people standing outside the building shouted at them, “thieves” and “you robbed our money.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian police yesterday detained former information minister Anas al-Fikki and former state broadcasting chief Osama al-Sheikh as part of a probe into alleged graft under Mubarak’s regime, a security official said.

On Wednesday, a travel ban was also slapped on former prime minister Atef Obeid, who served from 1999 to 2004, as well as long-serving former culture minister Farouq Hosni. The same restrictions were also imposed on nine businessmen deemed to have close ties with the Mubarak regime.

In other news, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said former vice president Omar Suleiman had survived an assassination attempt, state news agency MENA said, citing a television interview with the minister.

A senior Egyptian security source on Feb. 5 denied reports in US media that there had been an assassination attempt.

However, Aboul Gheit said on satellite channel Al Hayaat TV late on Wednesday that previous reports about Suleiman were correct. He said that he witnessed the shooting attack on Suleiman’s vehicle in an area near the presidential palace in Heliopolis in Cairo.

Aboul Gheit said the gunmen were inside a “stolen ambulance vehicle.” One of Suleiman’s bodyguards was killed, while another bodyguard and the driver were injured, MENA reported.

Also on Wednesday, hundreds of low-ranking police officers set fire to parts of the security headquarters after four days of protests to demand better salaries, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the officers numbered about 500 and that most of them had been sacked earlier and were demanding their jobs back.

Security officials also reported that an Egyptian border guard was shot dead near the country’s border with Israel in the Sinai peninsula.

Gunmen earlier attacked a security building on the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip, they said.

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