The Cairo Criminal Court opened court proceedings Sunday to hear the defence arguments of defendants in the case known as the ‘Al-Zawahiri terrorist cell’.
The cell is accused of forming and managing a terrorist organisation with many of the defendant Islamists freed at the beginning of Anwar El-Sadat’s rule, and resorting to violence.
The defence charged that the formation of the National Security Prosecution is unconstitutional, based on what they said was its violation of the constitutional decree of 1952.
There are 68 defendants in the case, the most prominent of whom is Ahmad Al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
Al-Zawahiri was briefly freed from jail by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) following the 25 January Revolution that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak. He was rearrested after only 48 hours, following what appeared to be a change of heart.
Al-Zawahiri was later freed from Egyptian custody after a death sentence and other charges against him were reversed by an appeals court in 2012. Alongside him, the court also acquitted Mohammed Islambouli, brother of Khaled Islambouli, an Egyptian jihadist who assassinated former president Anwar El-Sadat in 1981.
Other jihadists were also acquitted, including Sayyed Imam Fadl, once the spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Ayman Al Zawahiri’s mentor.
Al-Zawahiri and several other Islamists were rearrested in 2013, following the dispersal of pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Squares, which opposed former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.
One of the most prominent jihadists in the case, Nabil Al-Maghraby, known to be one of Egypt’s oldest political prisoners, died in hospital earlier this month after being diagnosed with cancer.
Al-Maghraby’s death came following another defendant’s death in May. Abdel Rahman Al-Sayed was executed on the orders of a military court that was trying him and others in the case known as the ‘Arab Sharkas cell’.