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Lawyer: U.S., Israel to blame for Egypt deaths

CAIRO - The United States and Israel plotted the killing of Egyptian protesters during last year's 18-day uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, a lawyer for his former interior minister claimed Thursday.

Lawyer Mohammed el-Gendi also accused security guards at the American University in Cairo of opening fire on protesters. The university's historical main building borders Tahrir Square, which was the focus of the anti-Mubarak revolt.

El-Gendi is a lawyer for former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly.

El-Adly, Mubarak, and four top security officers are being tried for complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters at the hands of security forces during the uprising. The six face the death penalty if convicted.

Amplifying on his claims, the lawyer charged that Israel's "strategic goal is to destabilize Egypt" and harm its national security, while the United States is funding individuals, associations and groups for the same purpose.

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On Thursday the director of an American pro-democracy institute we banned from leaving Egypt. Last month Egyptian security raided several such organizations. They have denied funding protest groups.

El-Gendi also referred to the arrest of an Israeli over alleged espionage. The Israeli was eventually released without being charged.

El-Gendi's arguments followed the line of the Mubarak regime and the military council that succeeded it, blaming unrest on unknown "foreign hands."

El-Gendi's claim about AUC guards opening fire were an attempt to counter their earlier testimony. The guards said Egyptian security forces occupied the rooftops of AUC buildings to shoot at the protesters.

The American University in Cairo immediately issued a denial of el-Gendi's charge. "All members of the Tahrir Square campus security staff are Egyptians who do not carry firearms," the university said in a statement.

Activists have accused the court of being lax with police officers accused of killing protesters, allowing many to stay on the job while facing murder charges. Only one policeman has been convicted in more than a dozen court cases over the death of at least 846 people killed in the government crackdown on protesters. He was tried in absentia, and upon his return to Egypt recently, he was granted a retrial.

Mubarak's lawyer wrapped up his defense earlier. El-Adly's defense team was given five days to present its arguments, and the other defendants have until Feb. 16.

Verdicts are not expected soon.

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