CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court turned down an appeal for a new judge in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, the official news agency MENA said on Wednesday, signalling the trial can resume later this month.
Mubarak, his two sons, the former interior minister and senior police officers face a range of charges including involvement in killing protesters and abuse of power.
Lawyers representing families of those killed in the uprising that ousted Mubarak in February filed a suit calling for presiding judge Ahmed Refaat and the two other judges on the panel to be replaced.
They complained the panel had failed to give them adequate time to question Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the army council now ruling Egypt, during his court appearance.
“The court has concluded with the result that the request to reject Ahmed Refaat is not valid and has no legal basis,” the court ruling read.
Hearings in Mubarak’s case are scheduled to resume on December 28.
The court said the lawyer who filed the request merely wanted to obstruct the case and prolong it, with no reason or legal basis. Hearings have been halted since September pending a decision on Refaat.
A panel appointed to decide on the lawyers’ request first postponed the Refaat case, saying it needed to review his record and background and specifically requesting details of any government consultancy positions he was involved in.
The panel resigned later in October and a new one was appointed and had to start handling the request afresh.
Egyptian judges are often used as consultants by government ministries or agencies, a practice critics say has brought the objectivity of some judges into doubt.
Refaat has a reputation of working by the book and following procedures. He has been praised for his independence by the media.
Mubarak is being tried with his sons, Alaa, a businessman, and Gamal, a former banker who had a top post in his father’s ruling party.
Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six senior police officers are also standing trial. Businessman Hussein Salem, a close associate of Mubarak, is being tried in absentia.
Around 850 people were killed in the uprising that overthrew Mubarak last February.
Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Tamim Elyan; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Robert Woodward