Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's military ruler, will most likely testify in the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak if summoned after a request by the defence, a security official said Thursday.
Fareed al-Deeb, who represented the fallen dictator at his murder trial, asked the judge in its first session on Wednesday to summon Tantawi and military chief of staff Sami Enan along with some 1,600 witnesses.
"It is very likely that the field marshal will attend, if the court requests his presence," said the source, who requested anonymity.
The request was interpreted by some as an implicit threat by the pugnacious ex-president to embarrass the military, which many believe must have signed off on the decision to try Mubarak.
"It looks as if the Mubarak defence has raised the ante with the possibility of summoning Tantawi, Enan, and former governors (of Sharm el-Sheikh)," said Elijah Zarwan, an expert on Egypt with the International Crisis Group think tank.
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"In the past, Mubarak, at the centre of a dictatorial regime, was privy to all kinds of secrets. God only knows what embarrassing questions Mubarak could ask of senior military officials," he said.
The security official said he did not believe Mubarak was trying to "implicate" generals along with him.
"It makes sense that he would ask for their testimony," he said, because the military was called to the streets on January 28, after protesters torched police stations across the country.
The military, which took power after an uprising overthrew Mubarak in February, had been accused of dragging its feet on trying its former commander in chief, suspicions it hoped would be erased when Mubarak appeared in court.
The trial so far appears to have restored the military's credibility.
"It was hard personally, and on the morale," to see a decorated war hero such as Mubarak in the cage, said the official.
"But I have to think with my head. There was corruption, and he was responsible for the country," he said.