Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak 311 Reu.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile)
CAIRO - Hosni Mubarak was ordered on Tuesday to stand trial for the killing of protesters and could face the death penalty, scotching speculation the former leader may be spared public humiliation by Egypt's military rulers.
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Mubarak, ousted on Feb. 11 after mass demonstrations demanding he end his 30 years in power, has been questioned for his role in a crackdown that led to the killing of more than 800 demonstrators and has been probed over corruption.
The public prosecutor said Mubarak, who is detained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, would be tried on charges including "pre-meditated killing", which could be punished by the death penalty.
What happens in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, will
reverberate across a region which has been rocked by similar protests
and unrest. Trying Mubarak on such charges may deter other leaders from
quitting, analysts say.
Mubarak's two sons Alaa and Gamal, who many had believed was being
groomed for office, were also referred to the criminal court on the same
charges, the prosecutor said in a statement.
The decision was announced days before another planned demonstration in
Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising. Activists had called
for a big turnout on Friday to demand faster reforms and a public trial
for Mubarak and others.
"Every time the youth threaten to go to Tahrir Square again with a huge
number of protesters, I think they make some concessions," said Hassan
Nafaa, a political scientist and long-time Mubarak, who said the
protesters would still rally.
On Facebook, Mahmoud Dahab wrote: "Mubarak has been referred to trial
because Friday is approaching. We understand this game already".
With Mubarak still in hospital rather than prison, many Egyptians had
speculated that the military rulers now in charge were protecting one of
their own. Mubarak was a decorated air force commander before becoming
The army has denied such talk and insist the case of the president and his family was in the hands of the judiciary.
The crimes listed by the prosecutor included "intentional murder,
attempted killing of some demonstrators ... misuse of influence and
deliberately wasting public funds and unlawfully making private
financial gains and profits," the statement said.
It said Mubarak was accused of "participating with Habib al-Adli, the
former interior minister and some police authorities, ... in committing
pre-meditated murder of some of the participants of peaceful protests
across the country."
Judge Ahmed Mekky, the deputy head of Egypt's appeal court, told Reuters the prosecution could request the death penalty.
"If those crimes were proven on the former president he could face the
penalty the law has for such crimes, which includes the death penalty,"
Mubarak fell ill and went to the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh when he was
first questioned in April. A medical source said on Tuesday that his
condition was stable but he could not be moved to a Cairo prison
hospital as it was not equipped to treat him.
Egypt's revolt followed one in Tunisia, where another long-time
president quit but, unlike Mubarak, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to
Saudi Arabia. Protesters have hit the streets of Libya, Syria and Yemen
but their leaders have held on.
"A lot of the regimes -- Syria, Libya, and even Yemen -- are looking
carefully at the example of Tunisia and Egypt to see what has happened,"
said analyst Sara Hassan.
"They wouldn't like to see themselves face a similar fate to that of the
Mubarak family," she added. "I think they will be more intent on
hanging on, despite the costs."
Protesters in Egypt faced live ammunition, rubber bullets, water cannon
and batons during 18-days of demonstrations before Mubarak quit. Many
welcomed his referral to trial.