News24

Mubarak trial resumes

2011-12-28 18:01

Cairo - The murder trial of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak resumed on Wednesday after a three-month hiatus that saw the ousted strongman's fate eclipsed by deadly clashes and an Islamist election victory.

Mubarak risks the death sentence if he is found to have been complicit in the killings of some 850 people who died during protests that overthrew him in February.

The ailing former president, 83, arrived by ambulance at the Police Academy - which once bore his name - and was wheeled out by stretcher into the courthouse.

Around 5 000 police officials were deployed to secure the trial at the academy in the outskirts of Cairo, in co-ordination with the army.

Mubarak's two sons Alaa and Gamal, his former interior minister Habib al-Adly and six former security chiefs, defendants in the same case, were also in court.

Judge Ahmed Refaat heard statements from lawyers for both sides, before adjourning the hearing to January 2, an AFP correspondent said.

Outside the courthouse, several pro-Mubarak supporters held banners of the former president, while families of the victims that died in protests carried pictures of their deceased relatives.

"The trial is a sham and the gang still rules," the families chanted.

"We removed Mubarak, we got Hussein. To hell with both of them," they shouted in reference to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's longtime defence minister who is now running the country.

Media gag order

The trial came to a halt when lawyers asked that judge Refaat be replaced, a request that was subsequently rejected on December 7.

Mubarak's first hearing on August 3 was broadcast live on television, but Refaat soon ordered the cameras out.

The judge drew the ire of lawyers representing Mubarak's alleged victims after he issued a media gag order on testimony by high-profile witnesses, including Tantawi.

In statements after his testimony, Tantawi said Mubarak had never ordered the shooting of protesters.

Mubarak is the first leader to be toppled in the so-called Arab Spring uprisings to appear before a court.

Despite the media frenzy at the start of the case, his fate has since been overshadowed by deadly clashes between the army and people protesting against the military junta that took over when the long-time president resigned.

Innocent

Attention was also diverted to the first post-revolution legislative elections that began on November 28, in which Islamists have emerged as front-runners.

It is widely expected that the resumption of the trial would be merely procedural, with little discussion of the accusations against Mubarak.

But lawyers supporting the former president are hoping to clear his name.

Yussri Abdel Razek, who heads the defence committee - which includes four Kuwaiti lawyers - said on Tuesday he had obtained "new documents that will prove Mubarak's innocence".

Mubarak resigned on February 11 after three decades of autocratic rule following a popular uprising in which more than 6 000 were also injured.

He is being held in a military hospital, where he receives treatment for a heart condition. His lawyer Farid al-Deeb says Mubarak suffers from stomach cancer.