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(photo credit: REUTERS)
A top police witness at the trial of Hosni Mubarak said Monday he had not been aware of any order to fire on protesters who ousted the Egyptian president in February after 18 days of protests.
Scuffles erupted inside and outside the courtroom during Monday’s session, which Judge Ahmed Refaat adjourned until Wednesday.
“In my 30 years of experience with state security, I have not heard of any incident where an order was given to use live ammunition against protesters,” said Gen. Hussein Saeed Muhammad Moussa, head of communication in the state security service.
Moussa admitted, however, that police were given guns and live ammunition to protect the Interior Ministry from attack, and that the decision was issued by a senior officer, Ahmed Ramzi, who is also one of the defendants.
Mubarak is charged with involvement in killing protesters and “inciting” some officers to use live ammunition against them, in the first trial of an Arab leader in person since street unrest erupted across the Middle East early this year. Guy Bechor, director of Middle East studies at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, said the trial must be given time and space to run its course. “We expect someone to say ‘hocus pocus,’ and there will be a verdict within two weeks, but it doesn’t work like that,” he said. “I believe a trial like this will take many months. So there’s a discrepancy between the media circus and the actual legal process, which takes time.”
Bechor said it’s equally important to remember just how little has changed in Egypt. “The same military elite continues to rule. The only difference is that the number 2 and 3 – Defense Minister Muhammad Hussein Tantawi and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman – sold out the number 1, Hosni Mubarak,” he said.
About 850 people died in the protests that erupted on January 25 and ended Mubarak’s three decades in office on February 11.
“The ruling junta sacrificed Mubarak to win itself legitimacy and appear as if it’s carrying out the nation’s will of removing the dictator,” Bechor said, “but Mubarak wasn’t a dictator the way Bashar Assad or Muammar Gaddafi was, and he didn’t rule alone, but along with those same military leaders.
It’s hypocritical for them to pretend now to be against the tyrant and on the side of the revolution.”
Hospitalized since April, the 83-year-old Mubarak was wheeled on a gurney into a metal defendants’ cage Monday for the third session of his trial and the first to take witness testimony. He is being tried alongside his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six senior police officers.
The court proceedings were delayed by a fight in the chamber when a Mubarak supporter lifted up a photo of the former president, angering relatives of victims of the uprising. Lawyers for plaintiffs also entered the fray.
Police stepped in to separate them, those in court said. The agitation prompted Judge Ahmed Refaat to call a recess.
Outside, supporters chanted: “He gave us 30 years of protection, Mubarak
hold your head up high.” Nearby, anti-Mubarak protesters hurled stones
at police lines and some officers threw rocks back. At one point police
with shields and batons charged a group of demonstrators.
“Since the army took over, tens of thousands of people were subjected to
military trials – just like in Mubarak’s day,” Bechor said. “The
economic situation, tourism, personal safety – all these have dropped.
By every parameter, things are worse and not better.
“Moreover, we still aren’t seeing democracy – the elections keep being
postponed, and if they’re ultimately held, they might well lead to a
victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to Egypt’s international
isolation,” he said. “None of these scenarios is positive.”Reuters contributed to this report.