The Supreme State Security Court on Monday recused itself from hearing the trial of two suspects accused of spying for Israel.
State-run news service MENA reported that the court stepped down from presiding over the trial of Bashar Ibrahim Abu Zeid, a Jordanian communications engineer, and Ophir Herare, a fugitive Israeli Mossad officer, for unknown reasons.
The trial will start over from the beginning at a yet to be determined court.
The decision comes after a judge rejected Abu Zeid’s request to be tried by a different court in September.
The defense team requested that an expert examine the phone tapping device authorities accused Abu Zeid of using to record calls to determine if it in fact had made any recordings. The lawyer also requested that Abu Zeid be released from custody, as he has already been detained for a year and a half without being found guilty, and his place of residence was known to the court.
State-run newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted defense lawyer Ahmed al-Ganzouri as saying that the prosecutor had refused to produce any evidence proving the allegations against his client. The prosecution was hiding behind the law on general intelligence to get around providing any evidence, Ganzouri claimed.
Egyptian law prohibits members of the General Intelligence Services — such as those that arrested Abu Zeid — from making any statements concerning their work due to national security.
Ganzouri requested that his client be tried before a regular criminal court. He also requested on Monday that his client be allowed to continue the trial from outside the defendant’s cage, but that request was denied.
Abu Zeid was arrested by Egyptian security forces in March 2011. Authorities accuse him of entering the country after the 25 January uprising to work as an agent for the Mossad.
Fellow defendant Ophir Herare is alleged to have been responsible for overseeing Abu Zeid’s work in Egypt. Herare fled the country before being brought before the court, and is now being tried in absentia.
Intelligence service agents claim that Abu Zeid and Herare agreed to intercept international calls coming into Egypt and transfer them to Israel to allow Israeli security services to gather information on Egyptian national security.
The prosecution also alleges that Herare asked Abu Zeid to identify Egyptian intelligence agents working in telecommunications.
Abu Zeid was also charged with collecting data on employees working with Egyptian mobile operators and who travel abroad for work, with the aim of recruiting suitable candidates to work for the Mossad.
Edited translation from MENATags: Abu Zeid, Supreme State Security Court, MENA Court recuses, Egyptian law, national security, Bashar Ibrahim Abu Zeid