CAIRO - Hosni Mubarak, who governed Egypt for 30 years before a popular
uprising toppled him last year, will hear a judge rule on Saturday on
whether he is guilty of graft and complicity in the killing of
Hundreds of police surrounded the court set up at the
Police Academy on Cairo's outskirts. Protesters gathered outside
holding up images of those killed in the uprising and calling for
Mubarak's execution. "Dear God, take Mubarak and those with him!" they
If convicted, the 84-year-old former president could face anything from a few years in jail to the death penalty.
Egyptians expect he will go to the gallows, even if some think that is
what he deserves. Protesters have often hung his effigy from lamp posts
since he fell on Feb. 11, 2011.
Mubarak's two sons, standing
trial with their father, alongside his former interior minister and six
other senior officers, arrived at the court, state media reported.
is the first time an Arab leader ousted by his people has been placed
before a regular court. Mubarak's trial had Arabs glued to the
television last year and sent a message to other autocrats battling
rebellions what fate might await them.
"Mubarak's trial has the
potential to set a meaningful regional precedent for accountability for
human rights abuses and for upholding international fair trial
standards," Human Rights Watch wrote in a report before the session.
But the ruling could not come at a more sensitive time for Egypt, right in the middle of a fraught presidential election that pits a figure from the Muslim Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak, against the deposed leader's last prime minister.
verdict could herald more political turmoil, although Judge Ahmed
Refaat, who has already had three months to consider his decision, could
postpone it if he needs more time.
"It cannot be that, after 15
months of the revolution and the crimes committed, Mubarak is not
punished. This would destroy any trust in the judiciary," said engineer
Saad Ali, 35.
An acquittal or a light sentence could send
protesters back on the streets. Many are already angry that the hated
police force, blamed for about 850 deaths in the uprising, and other
pillars of Mubarak's rule have survived his downfall intact.
conviction would prompt demands for Mubarak to be transferred to prison
from the hospital where he has been held in custody. The other
defendants, who include his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, his former
interior minister Habib al-Adli and six senior security officials, have
been held in a Cairo jail.
Egyptians saw Mubarak as they had
never seen him before when his trial opened on Aug. 3, about six months
after he was ousted. The man once at the centre of ceremonial state
events was wheeled into the court on a hospital gurney.
appeared on a stretcher for each session since then, suffering from
undefined ailments, and flown in by helicopter from a military hospital
on the edge of the sprawling capital.
His sons have stayed close
to him in the cage for defendants used in all Egyptian criminal courts.
The trial has unfolded in a special courtroom in a police academy on the
edge of Cairo.
He has rarely spoken except to declare his
presence and deny the charges, including accusations that he was behind
brutal police tactics used to quell mass protests that erupted on Jan.
25, 2011. He was driven from office 18 days later.
Outside the court, Mubarak's supporters and his opponents have often clashed, hurling stones and abuse at each other.
divisions are now playing out in the presidential race. In a June 16
and 17 run-off, Ahmed Shafiq, an ex-air force chief like Mubarak, will
face the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi.
Shafiq has called his
former boss a role model. His Islamist rival says that if he becomes
president he will ensure enough evidence is produced to keep Mubarak
behind bars for life.
"It is not possible to release Mubarak,"
Mursi told Reuters on Thursday. "I promise the martyrs (of the uprising)
will retrieve their rights in full, God willing."