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Egyptian Dictator Mubarak, his Sons Plead Not Guilty in First Session of Trial

August 3, 2011

Ex-president, sons plead not guilty

By Ashraf Madbouly and Abdel Monem Sayed -

The Egyptian Gazette

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 05:46:16 PM


Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak appeared on a stretcher in a cage inside a courtroom on Wednesday, along with his two sons.

They all denied murder and graft charges, as sporadic clashes erupted outside the court, held in the Police Academy, between his supporters and his foes.

The appearance of the ailing Mubarak, looking very pale, dressed in white and being helped by his two sons to understand what was going on, was the first since public protests forced him to step down on February 11.

After a four-hour hearing with two brief breaks, Chief Judge Ahmed Refaat decided to adjourn the trial until August 15 and said the 83-year-old former leader would be moved to the International Medical Centre in Cairo from the hospital where he had been detained in Sharm el-Sheikh for four months.

"The court has decided to resume the case on August 15. Mubarak and the others involved will be required to attend the next session," the judge said, allowing Dr Yasser Salah, an oncologist, to check on Mubarak's health while in hospital, at the request of his lawyer.

Separately, Judge Refaat said the court will reconvene today to hear the case of former interior minister Habib el-Adli, who appeared in court yesterday wearing blue, as he has already been sent down for 12 years in a money laundering case. Six of el-Adli aides were also in the dock and are expected to show up Thursday.

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, holding copies of the Holy Qur'an, seemed composed throughout the hearing and appeared to take turns to shield their ailing father from the television cameras, leaning down regularly to talk to him.

Mubarak's trial was a key demand of the revolutionaries, who spent a long time in Tahrir Square and other squares nationwide, calling for a speedy trial and for the rights of the 849 martyrs, killed during the 18-day protests.

Mubarak is the first Arab leader to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the Middle East this year.

The prosecutor said Mubarak "had the intention to kill" peaceful protesters during an 18-day revolt that toppled him on Feb. 11 and during the previous decade.

He accused Mubarak of allowing el-Adli to use live ammunition on protesters, and also charged him with corruption and squandering public funds. None of Mubarak's family members showed up in the court.

Military ruler asked to witness

Farid el-Deeb, a lawyer representing Mubarak, called for Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), to be summoned as a witness in the trial.

El-Deeb asked to hear the testimony of Tantawi among a list of more than 1,630 people he has requested as witnesses, including the former and current governors of South Sinai, in the corruption case against Mubarak.

"Tantawi was responsible for everything in the country as of January 28. His witness is of great importance," el-Deeb said.

He also listed other requests, including asking for a permit to get a specialist doctor to tend to Mubarak. Most of el-Deeb's requests were met by the chief judge.

Some other lawyers of the relatives of the victims asked for former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, current Chief of Staff the Armed Forces Sami Anan and Interior Minister Mansour el-Eissawi to show up as witnesses. The judge made no decision on this.Lawyers with dozens of requests The hearing was attended by dozens of lawyers, who either came to defend the nine defendants in the cage, or ask for compensation for the victims' families or even for civil lawsuits against the defendants.

A lawyer affiliated to the State Cases Authority said his body has requested the nine defendants to pay LE1 billion in financial compensation to the Treasury for the damage done to police institutions.

"The defendants are responsible for the state of insecurity. They should pay compensation for this," said the lawyer.

Some other lawyers called on the court to allow relatives of the victims into the courtroom, alleging that only four of these families had been admitted.

"It's farcical that there are ten times as many lawyers and media men as families of the martyrs, who are banned from entering," said lawyer Khaled Abou Bakr.

Lawyers jostled for microphones during the hearing that was for the most part conducted in an orderly manner, as Egyptian State TV was the only media outlet to be allowed in the courtroom. Fair trial urged International rights groups urged a ‘fair and transparent’ trial. "This trial presents a historic opportunity for Egypt to hold a former leader and his inner circle to account for crimes committed during their rule," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: "If these proceedings scrupulously reflect international fair trial standards, it will embody a clean break with the record of impunity that characterised Hosni Mubarak's rule, contribute to a new and hopeful chapter in Egypt's history, and set an important regional precedent."

The trial is the latest in a string of legal proceedings against Mubarak-era officials.
Several ministers have already been given jail terms in corruption cases, including Adly.
Mubarak was the second Arab leader to be overthrown in the unrest that has swept North Africa and the Middle East since the beginning of this year, after Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The old man in the cage

Clashes erupted between the pro-Mubarak protesters who had gathered outside the Police Academy and his opponents as the judge ordered a short recess. Dozens were injured, among them two photojournalists.

The crowd, including families of those killed during the revolt that toppled Mubarak, had been watching the trial on a large screen outside the Police Academy when Judge Ahmed Refaat adjourned the session for a short break, according to AFP.

Security forces intervened to separate both sides amid a highly charged atmosphere.
There had already been confrontations when the trial started, as anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists threw stones at each other.

Nationwide, Egyptians gave themselves a chance to follow the unprecedented televised trial of their three-decade leader.

In Cairo, the iconic Tahrir Square looked very calm, a scene unusual in the area for long months. Like anywhere else in the country, people were seen crowded in cafés, kiosks and anywhere with a television to see the old man in the cage. Many others, including tax drivers, turned up the volume of their radios so that passersby could follow what was going on.

But Tahrir and the streets leading to the Square saw a heavy police presence, apparently in case of an emergency.

Mubarak is not Mubarak

Almost everyone in the court was astonished when a lawyer for the families of the revolution martyrs, Hamed Sediq, told the court he suspected that Mubarak has been clinically dead since 2004. He asked the court to order DNA tests for Mubarak and his two sons.

Another lawyer asked the court to compare a signature of “the Mubarak in the cage” and others signed by “the real Mubarak” before 2004. Both requests were seen as absurd by most of those present.

Mixed reactions

* "I don't believe this... to see a president being tried... I never imagined it. I am so happy, I feel tomorrow will be better,“ Ahmed Amer, 30, an employee in a water services company, told Reuters outside the court complex.

* "I opposed the revolution at first. I criticised the youth in Tahrir Square and those who protested. But seeing that their efforts have finally brought this pharaoh to court, I now salute the revolution and the youth of Egypt," said Ali Abdullah, a shop owner in Sharm el-Sheikh.

* "Why is he on a stretcher? Is he handicapped? This is playing on people's emotions so we can all start crying over an old man," commented Mohamed Naguib, 32, from Sharm.

* A Bahraini activist called ‘Online Bahrain’ addressed other despots across the Arab world: "Dear Arab dictator, take a long, hard look at Mubarak. He was just as powerful as you were. Your time is up if you don't change."

* "I am sad, really sad. I never imagined to see my president lie on a bed like this. After all, he is an old man, there should be mercy. But I don't care for his sons, they can do what they want with them," said Khaled Hassan, 41, a plumber.

* "I don't like the fact that he is being put on trial... True, he made some mistakes but he also gave Egypt a lot, he is a symbol for the country," said Sara Abbar, in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah.

Inputs from news agencies

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