Cairo: First witnesses to speak at Mubarak trial

Egyptian judge bans television cameras from court sessions; pro-, anti-Mubarak demonstrators gather outside court.

September 5, 2011 11:29
3 minute read.
Hosni Mubarak in trial cage on stretcher

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


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CAIRO, Sept 5 - Senior police officers will testify on Monday at the trial of Hosni Mubarak, the first witnesses in a case that has stoked simmering tensions between supporters and opponents of the ousted Egyptian president.

Mubarak, being treated for heart problems and other ailments at hospital, was due to attend the hearing at the Police Academy on Cairo's outskirts.

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Mubarak opponents enraged after judge cuts TV coverage

The judge in the case has banned television coverage while the officers testify, in contrast to the first two sessions when Egyptians watched rivetted as their 83-year-old former president was wheeled into a cage in court on a hospital bed.

Judge Ahmed Refaat cited the need to protect witnesses' testimony as the reason for banning cameras. Lawyers, who applauded the decision, said it was to prevent witnesses being influenced by each other or the public.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, is the first Arab leader to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the Middle East this year.

Outside the Police Academy on Cairo's outskirts where the trial is being held, about 150 Mubarak supporters held up posters of the ousted president chanting: "He gave us 30 years of protection, Mubarak hold your head up high." Nearby, anti-Mubarak protesters hurled stones at police and some officers threw rocks back. "He has to be hanged. We don't want any more delays in the court session," said Mohamed Essam, who travelled from the Nile Delta town of Kafr el-Sheikh.

Scuffles between the two groups of demonstrators and police also erupted during two previous sessions.

"We are expecting to hear the testimony of four witnesses that the prosecution has asked to prove the charges against Mubarak and the others," said Gamal Eid, a lawyer representing 16 of the roughly 850 people killed in the uprising that ended his rule.

Mubarak is charged with involvement in the killing of the protesters.

Lawyer: First three witnesses are police officers

Eid said one of the witnesses is a top police officer, General Hussein Saeed Mohamed Mursi, who worked in the force's operations room during the uprising.

The three other witnesses called by the court are police officers who were in the operations room during the 18 days of protests. The court named them as Emad Badr Saeed, Bassim Mohamed el-Otaify and Mahmoud Galal Abdel Hamid.

Mubarak is standing trial with his sons Gamal, once viewed as being groomed for the top office, and Alaa, as well as former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six police officers.

Ten Kuwaiti lawyers are expected to join the defense team for Mubarak on Monday. Some of the lawyers said their role comes as a gesture of gratitude to Mubarak for his support for a US-led coalition that expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

A news conference held by the Kuwaiti lawyers on Sunday descended into chaos when backers of Mubarak attacked a journalist, scratching his arms and beating him after he asked why the Kuwaitis were defending the ousted president.

During the two earlier court sessions, the first held on August 3, backers and foes of Mubarak gathered outside the police academy building in a Cairo suburb where the trial is being held. Some fought and threw stones at each other.

Mubarak was flown to the court by helicopter for the two previous sessions.

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