Egypt's ex-president Mubarak to return to court

Court hearing to decide if head of ruling military council will testify, defense lawyers say his account could determine trial verdict.

By REUTERS
August 15, 2011 10:07
2 minute read.
Mubarak pleads not guilty

Mubarak testifies 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Egypt TV via Reuters TV)

CAIRO - Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak returns to court on Monday to face charges of killing protesters, in a hearing that could decide if the head of the ruling military council will take the stand as a witness.

Defense lawyers say that any testimony by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Mubarak's role in trying to suppress the 18-day uprising, in which more than 800 people were killed, could decide the fate of the 83-year-old.

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Tantawi, who was defense minister for two decades under Mubarak, heads the military council that took power when Mubarak was ousted on February 11 by the mass protests.

Mubarak, accused of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters, went on trial on August 3 in a case that has gripped the Arab world, where leaders rule for life and are seldom held to account.

The first Arab head of state to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the Middle East, the former air force commander faces charges that could carry the death penalty.

Mubarak appeared on a hospital bed, behind the bars of a courtroom cage with his sons, Gamal and Alaa, who will also appear again on Monday.

About 850 people were killed during the uprising and over 6,000 were wounded when security forces fired live rounds, rubber bullets and used water cannon and batons against the protesters.

The prosecutor accuses Mubarak of authorizing the use of the live ammunition to quell the protests.

Mubarak denied all accusations during the opening session, which was aired live and counted as his first public appearance since he was toppled.

In the first court session, defense lawyers asked for Tantawi, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and about 1,600 others to testify as witnesses.

Defense lawyers said the accounts would be vital for either incriminating or exonerating Mubarak from involvement in killing protesters.

"Tantawi's testimony would help the court determine whether Mubarak gave orders to Interior Minister Habib al-Adli to fire at protesters or whether Adli was acting independently," one member of the defense team, who asked not to be named, said.

A judge on Sunday set the next hearing for Adli and six of his lieutenants for September 5.

Lawyers for the families of those killed have also demanded Tantawi testify in the trial.

"It is important for the court to meet the requests of the defense team, especially the request to hear the accounts of Field Marshal Tantawi in court to determine whether Mubarak asked him to confront and fire at protesters or not," the lawyer said.

"The defense team sees Tantawi as a compurgator, or a witness whose testimony would exonerate Mubarak. The plaintiffs' lawyers, however, expect him to testify that he received orders to fire, which is necessary to convict Mubarak," another lawyer handling the case said.


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