The Cairo Criminal Court continued Saturday the trial session for Islamist leader Mohamed Al-Zawahiri and 67 others, in the absence of former jihadist Nabil Al-Maghraby who died Friday.
Al-Maghraby and the other defendants were involved in what is known as the ‘Al-Zawahiri terrorist cell’, where they have been accused of “establishing and managing a terrorist organisation”.
Al-Maghraby is said to have been one of Egypt’s oldest political prisoner. He died Friday inside Manial Hospital after being diagnosed with cancer.
He was one of the many Islamists who resorted to militancy after being released from prison at the beginning of Anwar El-Sadat’s presidency.
Al-Maghraby was first detained in 1979 when El-Sadat arrested scores of his political opponents ahead of the peace treaty with Israel.
In 1981, he was also arrested in the “Al-Jihad organisation” case, where he received a death sentence. In 2008, Al-Maghraby participated in revisions to militant Islamist groups, which vowed violent confrontation with the Egyptian state, which started in the early 1980s and left hundreds dead.
In June 2011, Prosecutor General Abdel Maguid Mahmoud ordered the release of Al-Maghraby and tens of other former Jihadists, who were freed from prison during Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) rule.
After the 25 January Revolution, tens of former Islamist leaders were acquitted of terrorism-related charges. Critics of the SCAF have argued that the acquittals were a step towards regaining the confidence of the Islamist current.
However, following the military-led ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, Al-Maghraby was arrested along with others, on charges of: targeting Egyptian authorities; attempted overthrow of the government; attacking military and police facilities and property; and targeting Copts and their places of worship.
Al-Maghraby’s death marks the loss of the second defendant in the ‘Al-Zawahiri terrorist cell’ case, after the execution of Abdel Rahman Al-Sayed last month.
Al-Sayed was part of the so-called Arab Sharkas cell, whose members were prosecuted in front of a military court.
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The Islamist group Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya mourned Al-Maghraby’s death, describing him as “one of the vanguards of the Islamist movement in Egypt”.
Tarek Al-Zomor, the head of the Building and Development Party, also mourned Al-Maghraby, adding that his death means a “plot to eliminate leading figures of the Islamist movement in prisons”.
Al-Maghraby’s passing comes less than ten days after leading Brotherhood figure Mohamed Al-Falahgy also died in hospital.
Another party leader, Tarek Al-Ghandour, died in a Menufiya hospital in November 2014 after suffering from liver dysfunction whilst imprisoned in Abu Zaabal and later Wadi El-Natrun prisons.
Since Morsi’s ouster, scores of Islamist activists, politicians, and students have faced a violent crackdown by the Egyptian state, which resorted to connect political Islam with terrorism.