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12 April 2024

Mubarak not guilty in gas sales to Israel: lawyer


The lawyer defending Hosni Mubarak told the court on Saturday that there is not a shred of evidence linking the ousted Egyptian strongman to a controversial gas deal with Israel.

Farid al-Deeb said Egypt's spy agency negotiated the 2005 deal in line with international norms.

"There isn't an ounce of evidence that Mubarak was involved in the deal to import gas to Israel," costing the state $714 million (553 million euros) in losses, Deeb told the court.

"Statements by the former head of the intelligence services, Oman Suleiman, acertain that he was not involved in the pricing process or anything else concerning this deal.

"The negotiations concerning the export of Egyptian gas to Israel were carried out in accordance with international norms," Deeb added.

Deeb argued that former oil minister Sameh Fahmi, who is behind bars for his alleged involvement in selling Israel gas below market value in a bid to make illicit gains, got the greenlight for the deal from the former government.

"Mubarak was not involved at all in these details," he said.

The prosecution has called for Egypt's ailing former strongman to be hanged for the killing of hundreds of demonstrators during the January-February 2011 revolt that forced him out of power.

Egypt supplies 43 percent of Israel's natural gas, which generates 40 percent of Israeli electricity. The flow of gas was interrupted several times last year by repeated militant attacks on the pipeline in the Sinai desert.

The sale of gas to Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, has always been controversial in the Arab world's most populous country.

The Egyptian oil ministry said last year it will revise the deal and would substantially increase the price.

Mubarak, whose trial began in August for the deaths of protesters and corruption, is also facing charges of corruption along with his sons Gamal and Alaa.

A sweeping probe into corruption has been launched by the military rulers who took power when Mubarak was ousted last February 11.

Hussein Salem, a fugitive and close associate of Mubarak, was in October sentenced in absentia to seven years in jail for profiteering.

Salem, who fled to Spain, is a former partner in the East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG), an Israeli-Egyptian consortium, which was accused of selling natural gas to Israel at low prices.

In December 2010, four Israeli firms signed agreements with EMG to import gas under a 20-year contract valued at $5 billion-$10 billion.