Hosni Mubarak charged with murder in criminal court

Former Egyptian president and his sons will stand trial for killing of protesters and could face the death penalty.

By REUTERS
May 24, 2011 19:09
3 minute read.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak 311 Reu. (photo credit: REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

 
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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.

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.

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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.

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"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 president.

DEATH PENALTY

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," he said.

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.

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"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.


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