The trial of former Egyptian president started on Wednesday in Cairo. Speaking from a hospital stretcher where he lay inside a cage for defendants, Hosni Mubarak (photo, from nytimes.com) has denied charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters. This last charge carries the death penalty.
Alaa and Gamal, the sons of the country’s ex-leader, are also being tried and pleaded ‘not guilty’. Ex-Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six other former officials are also being tried with Mr Mubarak. The country’s ex-president stepped down on 11 February after days of protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Some 850 people were killed in these protests.
The trial took place at the police academy in the country’s capital, and to maintain order 3,000 soldiers and police were drafted in.
The trial of Mr Mubarak and his sons has been adjourned until 15 August while the trial of Mr al-Adly and the six other security officials is due to resume on Thursday.
“The civilised Egyptian people require calm… to make sure that the mission of the court is carried out fully so we can please God almighty and our consciences”, said Judge Ahmed Rifaat when he opened the session.
According to state newspaper al-Ahram judge Rifaat is a respected jurist, independent of the former regime.
After the charges against the Mubaraks were read out, they were denied by each of them.
“Yes, I am here,” the former president said, raising his hand slightly when the judge asked him to identify himself and enter a plea. “I deny all these accusations completely.”
“I am delighted that I see them in a cage. I feel that my son’s soul is finally starting to be at rest and that his blood will cool,” Saeeda Hassan Abdul Raouf, the mother of a 22-year-old protester who was among those killed in the uprising, told the Associated Press outside the trial venue.
The number of people following the proceedings inside and outside the courtroom is estimated to 600, but with millions more watching on television screens.
One of the protest leaders, film-maker Ahmed Rasheed, told the BBC : “I was quite overwhelmed to see the scene taking place, I was very pessimistic about this. I didn’t believe he was going to show up in court.”
In the morning fighting started between hundreds of supporters and opponents of the ex-president, who were throwing stones and bottles at each other.
Mr Mubarak will be moved to a Cairo hospital and will have to attend the next session his of trial, said Judge Rifaat.