Riots break out as Mubarak wheeled into court for hearing

Deposed Egyptian president flown to court, wheeled out of ambulance on gurney; Mubarak faces charges of killing protesters; Defense lawyers say if Tantawi will testify, his account could determine trial verdict.

By REUTERS
August 15, 2011 14:01
3 minute read.
Fights break out near court building

Fights break out near court building. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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CAIRO -  Street clashes broke out on Monday as ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak returned to court to face charges over the killing of protesters in his second appearance in the trial.

An aircraft landed near the court building carrying Mubarak, who was deposed in February. State TV later showed the ailing Mubarak, aged 83, being wheeled out of an ambulance on a gurney.

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Hundreds of riot police stood guard but clashes erupted between a crowd of Mubarak supporters outside the building and a group demanding justice for those killed in the uprising that toppled him six months ago.

"The thief has arrived!" shouted the anti-Mubarak protesters, drawing whistles from his supporters.

As the pro-Mubarak crowd threw stones, the police cordon dividing them broke and the Mubarak supporters chased their opponents away from the court building.

Defense lawyers have said that any testimony by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Mubarak's role in trying to suppress the 18-day uprising, in which more than 800 people were killed, could decide the fate of the 83-year-old.



Tantawi, who was defense minister for two decades under Mubarak, heads the military council that took power when Mubarak was ousted on February 11 by the mass protests.

Mubarak, accused of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters, went on trial on August 3 in a case that has gripped the Arab world, where leaders rule for life and are seldom held to account.

The first Arab head of state to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the Middle East, the former air force commander faces charges that could carry the death penalty.

Mubarak appeared on a hospital bed, behind the bars of a courtroom cage with his sons, Gamal and Alaa, who will also appear again on Monday.

About 850 people were killed during the uprising and over 6,000 were wounded when security forces fired live rounds, rubber bullets and used water cannon and batons against the protesters.

The prosecutor accuses Mubarak of authorizing the use of the live ammunition to quell the protests.

Mubarak denied all accusations during the opening session, which was aired live and counted as his first public appearance since he was toppled.

In the first court session, defense lawyers asked for Tantawi, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and about 1,600 others to testify as witnesses.

Defense lawyers said the accounts would be vital for either incriminating or exonerating Mubarak from involvement in killing protesters.

"Tantawi's testimony would help the court determine whether Mubarak gave orders to Interior Minister Habib al-Adli to fire at protesters or whether Adli was acting independently," one member of the defense team, who asked not to be named, said.

A judge on Sunday set the next hearing for Adli and six of his lieutenants for September 5.

Lawyers for the families of those killed have also demanded Tantawi testify in the trial.

"It is important for the court to meet the requests of the defense team, especially the request to hear the accounts of Field Marshal Tantawi in court to determine whether Mubarak asked him to confront and fire at protesters or not," the lawyer said.

"The defense team sees Tantawi as a compurgator, or a witness whose testimony would exonerate Mubarak. The plaintiffs' lawyers, however, expect him to testify that he received orders to fire, which is necessary to convict Mubarak," another lawyer handling the case said.

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