- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s top security chief testified Wednesday in a closed session of the trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, who is charged with complicity in the killing of protesters in the uprising against his rule.

Gen. Mansour el-Issawi, the interior minister, is the latest in a string of top figures summoned to the stand under a complete media blackout, barring journalists from attending or even reporting accounts of what was said in the sessions.

Gen. el-Issawi’s examination by the defense team representing Mr. Mubarak, his security chief and six other aides; the prosecution; the lawyers representing the families of victims; and the judge lasted more than three hours.

Gen. el-Issawi was named interior minister after Mr. Mubarak’s Feb. 11 fall. He was expected to be asked about the chain of command inside the ministry and whether he has carried out an internal investigation in the charges against the police.

The 83-year-old Mr. Mubarak and the other six are charged with complicity in the deaths of the protesters during the 18-day uprising that led to Mr. Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

The trial of Mr. Mubarak, which began Aug. 3, was a major demand of the protest movement and families of nearly 850 killed during the uprising.

Now, many Egyptians say they are disappointed at the secrecy and the slow pace of the trial. After a few televised sessions, the judge ordered a halt to live coverage in a move said to protect the witnesses.

Earlier testimony embarrassed the prosecution. Witnesses changed their stories on the stand, denying any knowledge of orders from senior officials to fire at the protesters.

Summoning top officials to the court, including the country’s current military ruler, was viewed as a key move to determine whether Mr. Mubarak and his security chiefs ordered the shooting of protesters.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s military ruler, failed to show up for his testimony scheduled Sunday. The judge asked him to appear in court Sept.24.

Omar Suleiman, Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and intelligence chief for two decades, testified Tuesday in a session that lasted more than four hours.

Barring reporting on the testimonies has further frustrated Egyptians eager to see their dictator of 30 years be held accountable before the law. There are also concerns that testimony behind closed doors also may undermine the trial’s credibility. The judge said that allowing senior officials to testify in closes sessions is meant to protect “national security.”

Testimony by such high-profile witnesses is unprecedented for a court in Egypt. Up to now, senior officials have been seen as above question — particularly officers from the highly secretive military.

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