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AP / The Hindu/ CAIRO, August 3, 2011.
This video image taken from Egyptian State Television shows 83-year-old Hosni Mubarak laying on a hospital bed inside a cage of mesh and iron bars in a Cairo courtroom. Photo: AP.
In a historic trial, an ailing, 83-year-old Hosni Mubarak, lying ashen-faced on a hospital bed inside a metal defendants’ cage with his two sons beside him in white prison uniforms, denied charges of complicity in the killings of protestors and of corruption.
The spectacle, aired live on state television, was the biggest humiliation for Egypt’s former president since his ouster nearly six months ago. But it went a long way to satisfy one of the key demands that has united protesters since Feb. 11, the day the regime was toppled.
It was the first time Egyptians have seen Mubarak since Feb. 10, when he gave a defiant TV address refusing to resign.
“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,” said Saeeda Hassan Abdel-Raouf, the mother of a 22-year-old protester who was among those killed in the uprising. She spoke outside the trial venue at a Cairo police academy.
Mr. Mubarak, his former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, and six top police officers are charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with the protesters killed during the uprising, according to the official charge sheet. All eight could face the death penalty if convicted.
Separately, Mubarak and his two sons – one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa - face charges of corruption. The two sets of charges have been lumped together in one mass trial.
Outside the police academy where the trial was being held, hundreds of Mubarak’s opponents and angry supporters scuffled sporadically, throwing stones and bottles at each other while riot police with shields and helmets tried to keep them apart. About 50 supporters pounded on the steel gate trying to get into the compound, chanting “We Love you, Mubarak!” until police charged at them with electrified batons and dispersed them.
The clashes were a sign of the profound emotions stirred by the unprecedented prosecution of the man who ruled Egypt with unquestioned power for 29 years.
For many Egyptians, the trial is a chance at retribution for decades of oppressive rule in which opponents were tortured, corruption was rife, poverty spread and political life was stifled. But for others, Mr. Mubarak was a symbol of stability.
Mr. Mubarak was wheeled into the defendant’s cage on a hospital bed, a sheet pulled up to his chest alongside his nine co-defendants, including his sons Mr. Gamal and Mr. Alaa, his former interior minister Habib el-Adly and six top former police officials. Though he was pale and his eyes were ringed with red, he appeared alert and aware of what was going on. He showed little discernible emotion.
From time to time, Mr. Mubarak craned his head to see the proceedings. Other times, he crooked his elbow over his face as if in exhaustion. While the other defendants sat on wooden benches in the cage, Mr. Gamal and Mr. Alaa stood protectively next to their father’s bed in their white prison uniforms, leaning over at times to talk to him.
Defendants are traditionally held in cages during trials in Egypt. About an hour after the session began, there was a recess and the defendants were led out of the cage.
A success for the revolution
Up to the last minute, many Egyptians had doubted that Mr. Mubarak would actually appear at the trial. It was inconceivable that the man who vowed to rule the country until his last breath and who kept a near total grip on the levers of power, whose name once crowned public buildings around the country, could actually be brought to trial.
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