court official

CAIRO — All three judges on Tuesday pulled out of Egypt's trial of 43 pro-democracy workers, including 16 Americans, according to a court official, throwing into question the case that has ripped U.S.-Egypt relations.

The defendants are charged with using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest that has roiled Egypt over the past year. The pro-democracy groups and the U.S. flatly deny the charges, and U.S. officials have hinted that foreign aid to Egypt is in jeopardy.

Lead Judge Mohammed Shoukry said Tuesday that “the court felt uneasiness” in handling the case, according to the court official. He did not elaborate.

The official said new judges will be assigned to the case, on condition of anonymity.

The trial has proceeded only as far as its opening session, and it would need to be restarted with a new panel of judges. Coupled with indications that the two countries are trying to find an acceptable resolution to the crisis, it was seen possible that the trial might be called off at some point.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told two Senate panels on Tuesday that the United States and Egypt are “in very intensive discussions about finding a solution.”

The affair began in December when Egyptian security raided 17 offices of 10 pro-democracy and human rights groups, confiscating documents and equipment. It led to charges that the groups have financed protests over the past year with illegally obtained funds and have failed to register with the government as required.

The groups insist their financing is transparent, and all their efforts to register have been stalled by the Egyptian government.

The charges dovetail with constant pronouncements from Egypt's military rulers that protests against their rule are directed by unnamed, dark foreign forces, a claim that is ridiculed by Egyptian activists.

Furious over the charges and travel bans against civil society workers, the United States has threatened to cut off aid to Egypt, putting at risk $1.3 billion in military aid this year and another $250 million in economic assistance. Egyptian officials claim the matter is entirely in the hands of the judiciary, and many of them view the U.S. threat as unacceptable meddling.

Printed on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as: Egyptian judges recuse selves from heated non-profit trial

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Ratko Mladic, who will appear in public Friday for the first time since his arrest when he goes before a war crimes judge, was “extremely cooperative” when finally taken into U.N. custody after 16 years as a fugitive, a court official said Wednesday.

John Hocking, the registrar of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, said the wartime Bosnian Serb military commander understood him clearly when Hocking spoke to him Tuesday night, shortly after Mladic was extradited from Belgrade in a Serbian government business jet.

Hocking, the tribunal’s senior administrative official, described the rules and regulations of the detention block that will be the ex-general’s home until the end of his trial on charges of genocide and orchestrating Serb atrocities throughout the Bosnian war.

Hocking said a doctor who examined the 69-year-old Mladic saw no medical problems to prevent him being taken into the tribunal’s detention unit but declined to provide details about Mladic’s health, citing privacy concerns.

The descriptions of Mladic’s health and powers of concentration appear to be at odds with those of Mladic’s Belgrade lawyer, who has said the ex-general is too weak mentally and physically to face a complex and lengthy war crimes trial. Mladic’s family says he has suffered at least two strokes while on the run.

Mladic will appear in court for the first time Friday morning when a judge will ask him to confirm his identity and give him the chance to enter pleas to the 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz praised Serbia’s pro-Western President Boris Tadic for having Mladic arrested, but also rued how long it took to detain Europe’s most-wanted war crimes fugitive, who was first indicted in 1995 while war was still raging around him.

“Sixteen years is a long time to wait for justice,” Brammertz told reporters at the court. “It has happened very late, but not too late.”

Mladic “was the most powerful military figure in Bosnia during the war and he is charged with crimes that shocked the conscience of the international community ... and symbolize the brutality of the war in Bosnia,” Brammertz said.

The 1992-95 Bosnian war left about 100,000 people dead and forced 1.8 million to flee their homes.

Hocking said he discussed with Mladic how he would mount his defense against the charges, but said Mladic has not yet indicated his plans.

Several high-profile leaders prosecuted at the tribunal, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, have acted as their own defense attorneys and used their trials as platforms to spread their political message.

Mladic was captured Thursday at the home of a relative in a Serbian village. Judges in Belgrade rejected his appeal to delay his transfer on grounds of ill health, and the Serbian justice minister authorized his handover to U.N. officials in The Hague.

Of the 161 suspects indicted by the U.N. court since its establishment in 1993, only one remains on the run — Goran Hadzic, a leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia.