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“I know who Ahmed Ezz is,” Mr. Stork said. “I know of his reputation, I have no views on his culpability.”

But Mr. Stork added, “Certainly he, like anyone else, has his right to a fair trial. The judicial proceedings he is subjected to should meet fair-trial standards; he should know the accusations against him; he should be able to confront those who are accusing him.”

Amr Bargisi, a senior partner with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth, an organization that seeks to promote political liberty and free markets in Egypt, said Mr. Ezz is “public enemy No. 1 in Egypt today.”

Mr. Bargisi said he doubts Mr. Ezz could receive a fair trial because the accusations against him were widely publicized by the media.

“Everyone in Egypt has been upset with the idea of the marriage of wealth and power,” Mr. Bargisi said. “I am afraid the divorce of wealth from power will probably not only lead to the unfair treatment of many businessmen and former politicians, but might also take Egypt in a direction that will be devastating for the economy and the prospects of democracy. Every businessman at the moment is a suspect of the revolutionary regime and the public. If this trend continues, we will see major capital flight from Egypt.”

Not all observers agree that the pending trial of Mr. Ezz is unwise. Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Taskforce on Palestine, said Egyptians needed to know that the era of corruption under Mr. Mubarak was finished.

“This trial is probably needed to convince Egyptians that the worst excesses of the kleptocracy under Mubarak has been stopped and will be addressed,” he said. “There has to be some kind of reckoning, even in a bloodless and orderly transition. I would say everything in the legal and political processes that exist in Egypt right now is unsatisfactory, nothing bares the hallmark of legitimacy. The question is to what extent do you put the legal and political processes on hold, or do you go forward with what is socially and politically required?”

In a March 11 letter from prison, published on the Bikyamas website, Mr. Ezz rejected the charges against him.

“I refute all of the allegations brought against me, and I know that a fair and proper legal process would prove my innocence,” he stated.

“In this unprecedented time for the country, it is important to remember what our youth are calling for: freedom, fairness and democracy. My hope is that this commitment to a bright future for Egypt is not undermined at its first hurdle through a desire to find scapegoats. I truly hope I can at least depend on a full representation of the facts, due legal process and a fair trial.”