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28 Dec 2011 18:02
The trial of Hosni Mubarak resumed on Wednesday after a three-month break, with the ousted Egyptian leader returning to the metal defendants’ cage in a Cairo courtroom for the latest proceedings.
Egyptian TV showed 83-year-old Mubarak, covered by a green blanket and lying on a hospital gurney as he was brought from a helicopter and taken to an ambulance for the short ride to the courthouse.
Mubarak is charged with complicity in the killings of more than 800 protesters in the crackdown on a popular uprising in January and February that forced him out of office. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
He has been under arrest since April, but he has never gone to prison and instead has been confined to hospitals the entire time.
Mubarak and his two sons, who are in prison, also face corruption charges.
Wednesday’s session lasted for only a few hours and then the judge adjourned the trial again until January 2. The judge received new requests from defence lawyers to expand the case to include other incidents of violence and deaths of protesters since Mubarak’s ouster. Mubarak’s lawyers argued that killings of protesters continued even after he stepped down and asked for this to be considered evidence that he is not the one responsible for the killings.
Protests and unrest have continued throughout the year, with pro-democracy activists keeping up pressure on the ruling military for reforms. Clashes between protesters and security forces have killed more than 100 people since Mubarak’s ouster.
Relations between the mostly youthful activists and the military rulers have steadily worsened, hitting a new low this month when soldiers brutally beat and stomped on protesters in Cairo clashes that left at least 18 people dead and dozens wounded.
Mubarak’s trial began in August, with many in the country riveted by the sight of the longtime authoritarian ruler lying in a hospital bed inside the defendant’s cage, flanked by his two sons who formerly wielded tremendous power.
During early sessions, the trial was bogged down by frequent commotion and arguments in the courtroom between lawyers representing both sides. Eventually, the judge banned the media as he summoned high-ranking officials to testify.
In September, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling military council that took power after Mubarak’s fall, testified under a total media blackout.
Journalists were barred from the court and forbidden to report any leaked details of his testimony. Many believe Tantawi—who was Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades—can address the key question of whether Mubarak ordered the use of lethal force against protesters, or at least knew about it and didn’t try to stop it.
Also on trial with Mubarak and facing the same charges are his former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and six senior former security officials. Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, also face corruption charges.
The prosecution’s case depends heavily on accounts of members of the former president’s inner circle including ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman, who was appointed vice-president by Mubarak during the uprising.—Sapa-AP
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