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Last Updated:  Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 22:42 GMT
Britons' trial in Egypt begins
Reza Pankhurst, Maajid Nawaz, Ian Nisbet
Mr Pankhurst, Mr Nawaz and Mr Nisbet claim they were tortured
The trial of three UK men accused of promoting an illegal Islamic group in Egypt was opened on Saturday after long delays.

Ian Nisbet and Reza Pankhurst from the London area and Maajid Nawaz from Westcliff, Essex, were arrested last April and are standing trial with 23 Egyptians.

The trial has already been delayed for two weeks, frustrating the families of the accused men, who have been in prison since April last year.

The proceedings heard from a report by a panel of experts before being adjourned until Sunday.

'Ludicrous' charges

The men, all in their 20s, are accused with their Egyptian co-defendants of trying to revive the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the Islamic Liberation Party.

Mr Nisbet's parents from Brackley, Northamptonshire, have described the charges against him as "ludicrous".

The British men claim they have been variously tortured with electric shocks, deprived of sleep, and denied access to lawyers while in jail.

The three men are accused of possessing banned books and computer equipment.

But their lawyer Sadiq Khan has said the books were available "in any Cairo bookstore".

The trial, in Cairo's State Security Court, heard from a report by a panel of experts who assessed whether books found on Mr Pankhurst and Mr Nawaz were incriminating.

'Great thing'

Mr Pankhurst's solicitor in Cairo, Ahmed Seif Elislam Hamed, said: "It was established that these books already exist in Egypt and this is a very great thing.

"Another part of the report says that there is no legal power to restrict any books."

The case began in October, but was adjourned during the Muslim month of Ramadan, and then again for another seven weeks for the books to be assessed.

Mr Nisbet and Mr Pankhurst are computer consultants, while Mr Nawaz, 24, is an undergraduate studying Arabic and law.

All three are accused of promoting, both in speech and writing, the goals of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Minister's concern

Both Mr Nawaz and Mr Pankhurst are also accused of possessing and distributing printed literature which "promoted Hizb ut-Tahrir's message", while Mr Pankhurst faces a third charge of possessing a computer used for "propagating" the group's ideology.

The men claim they were tortured and forced to sign confessions in Arabic which they could not read.

The British Ambassador to Egypt, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and other ministers have repeatedly raised their concerns over the delays and torture claims.

UK officials have said the Egyptian report into the allegations left their concerns unanswered.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group which the men are accused of promoting, is legal in the UK but is outlawed in Egypt following an attempted coup in 1974.

Trial of Britons in Egypt delayed
15 Mar 03  |  England
Fears for Egypt trial Briton
23 Dec 02  |  England
Egypt trial Britons' case resumes
21 Dec 02  |  England
Britons 'tortured' in Egypt
20 Oct 02  |  England

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