The judge presiding over the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
ordered television cameras out of the courtroom Monday until the case concludes,
enraging opponents of the deposed leader who vowed to challenge the decision
with protests in downtown Cairo.
Mubarak stands accused of authorizing
the use of live ammunition to shoot protesters, of corruption and abuse of
power. Judge Ahmed Refaat ordered the trial be merged with that of Mubarak’s
Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six others who face similar charges in order
to streamline the process.RELATED:
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Supporters and opponents of Mubarak threw
stones at each other and fistfights erupted near the court, set up in a police
academy building in a Cairo suburb, as Mubarak flew in by helicopter for the
second day of his trial and was wheeled into the courtroom’s steel cage on a
Mubarak is the first head of state who was overthrown
during a wave of uprisings in the Arab world this spring to appear in court, and
the TV coverage has gripped audiences across the Middle East. A public trial was
a key demand of protesters who had camped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for weeks in
July to press for a swift hearing.
“Preposterous!” said Sherif Mohamed,
an engineer who was watching the trial outside the court building in Cairo,
after the session was public opinion. Not airing it live means there is a deal
Mohamed Ali, 35, said he is going to protest with the
“To Tahrir – that is where I am going now. People-power is
stronger than people in power,” he said.
The crowd lunged forward as
Mubarak arrived and his supporters hurled stones at a group of protesters who
demanded the death penalty for the 83-year-old.
The crowd broke through a
cordon formed by hundreds of riot police, and the Mubarak supporters chased
their opponents away from the court building.
One protester attacked a
Then police jumped on him and beat him.
up! Mubarak killed my brothers! Execute the killer!” shouted some in the
In a courtroom packed with more than 150 excited lawyers, Mubarak
looked composed and stern, hands clasped over his chest. An intravenous needle
was implanted in his left hand.
He was not wearing the regulation white
uniform of prisoners.
He exchanged a few words with his sons, Alaa and
Gamal, also standing trial, and spoke up to state his presence.
sought to shield him from cameras, and one of them kissed Mubarak on the
forehead to comfort him.
Ousted on February 11, Mubarak fled Cairo to the
Red Sea resort of Sharm e-Sheikh. Medical reports issued after he was taken to a
hospital following initial questioning in April said he was suffering from heart
problems, depression and fainting.
“I want people to read their history
and know what this great man has done for us. He kept Egypt stable. He has been
humiliated but he is weathering the storm with pride,” said one supporter
outside the court.
Judge Refaat had postponed the hearing until September
5 after Mubarak’s lawyer Farid al-Deeb requested time to view all the documents
submitted to court.
Lawyers were split in their reaction to suspending
television coverage. Monday’s session was marked by rowdy exchanges and scuffles
between the dozens of lawyers who pressed towards the bench to make their
“The Egyptian public needs a transparent trial at this stage. If
they cannot see what is happening, rumors will circulate and the degree of
vagueness surrounding the trial will increase,” said plaintiff lawyer Mahmoud
Ahmed Hamrawi, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, said the
decision to remove the cameras was reasonable.
“It is understandable to
cut live feed of this sensational trial,” he said.
“There are lawyers who
are more concerned about appearing in front of the camera than putting up a good
from now the trial session will be more focused and less
Egypt’s ruling military council has promised a transition to
democracy in the Arab world’s most populous country – a process far from
complete and, the pro-reform camp says, vulnerable to high-level
Judging and punishing Mubarak swiftly could assuage the
population and ease a peaceful transition to civilian rule.
But with so
many witnesses, lawyers, plaintiffs and varied charges, it could drag on for
months or years.
In the first court session on August 3, lawyers asked
for the head of Egypt’s ruling army council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein
Tantawi, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and about 1,600 others to
testify as witnesses.
Lawyers have also called for Tantawi, who was
defense minister for two decades under Mubarak and heads the military council,
to appear as a witness.
Meanwhile, the ruling military council has
enlisted Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the foremost seat of learning in the Sunni
world, to help articulate key principles in the drafting of Egypt’s new
constitution, the website Bikya Masr reported on Sunday.
growing ties between the army and Islamist groups as a worrying sign that
relatively moderate and liberal factions will be sidelined in post- Mubarak