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Ruler fails to attend Mubarak trial

Egypt's military ruler and one-time confidant of Hosni Mubarak has failed to attend a court session that was expected to bring highly anticipated testimony about the ousted president's alleged role in the death of protesters and possibly offer insider revelations about the regime's final days.

The no-show by Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi was a major disappointment for Egyptians seeking to have the reckoning over the bloodshed reach to the highest levels. It could also reflect hesitation by Mubarak's former allies to face him in court and possibly reveal embarrassing secrets.

The judge immediately requested that Mr Tantawi return to court on September 24.

The report on Egyptian state TV did not give a reason for Mr Tantawi's absence in court.

But a defence lawyer said Mr Tantawi told the court he was ready to submit written testimony since he was dealing with the fallout after the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo on Friday by protest mobs.

The trial is seen as a test between Egypt's traditional power structure and the impatience for clear breaks with the past seven months after Mubarak was toppled and power shifted to a military council.

Many Egyptians still see the ruling military as uneasy about putting one of their own on trial - Mubarak was previously commander of the air force and a pilot.

There is also speculation that Mr Tantawi and other high-ranking officials want to keep a distance from the proceedings, fearing they could be implicated in the crackdowns that left nearly 900 dead.

Mubarak is accused of complicity in the attacks. It is unprecedented for a court in Egypt to summon such high-level figures - particularly authorities from the highly secretive military and intelligence services.

Assem Qandil, a lawyer for one of the defendants tried along with Mubarak, said that Mr Tantawi notified the court in a written statement that he could not show up because of the tensions after the embassy assault.

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