- - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

EGYPT

Ex-spy chief testifies in Mubarak trial

CAIRO — One of the most secretive figures of Hosni Mubarak’s inner circle testified Tuesday at the ousted leader’s trial under a complete media blackout, facing questions over whether his former boss ordered the use of lethal force against protesters.

Omar Suleiman, who was Mr. Mubarak’s longtime intelligence chief and was named vice president during the last weeks of his rule, is the first in a string of members of the ousted leader’s senior leadership to appear in the court.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s current military ruler, who was Mr. Mubarak’s defense minister, was due to testify on Sunday but failed to appear.

It is unprecedented for a court in Egypt to summon such high-level figures - particularly authorities from the highly secretive military and intelligence services.

The judge closed the court for the testimonies, barring anyone from attending except lawyers. Not only are journalists forbidden to attend, they are not allowed to report anything on the testimony or even quote lawyers who attended the session.

The session lasted nearly four hours.

The 83-year-old Mr. Mubarak, his former interior minister and six senior police officers face charges of complicity in the deaths of the protesters during the 18-day uprising that led to Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

More than 850 protesters were killed by police and security forces.

Mr. Suleiman, 74, was Mr. Mubarak’s point man in dealing with the protesters.

SYRIA

Regime troops raid neighborhoods near capital

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces riding in vehicles mounted with machine guns raided neighborhoods outside the capital, Damascus, before dawn Tuesday as Turkey’s prime minister said he was concerned Syria could descend into a sectarian civil war.

Tuesday’s raids were the latest assault on dissent in Syria as the regime tries to crush an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule using deadly force that the U.N. estimates has killed 2,600 since March. But the protesters have refused to give in, setting the stage for a drawn-out stalemate.

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