Mubarak arrives in Cairo for public trial

Ben-Eliezer: PM and I offered Mubarak haven in Eilat; former Egyptian president to be first Arab ruler put in the dock since uprisings.

Mubarak 311 Reuters (photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah )
Mubarak 311 Reuters
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah )
The aircraft carrying Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak from the Red Sea resort of Sharm e-Sheikh landed in Cairo on Wednesday, Al Jazeera television reported.
It said the plane arrived at a military base in Cairo and that Mubarak had not yet reached the Police Academy where the court has been set up.
Mubarak will be the first Arab ruler to be put in the dock since uprisings swept the region.
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MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer offered Hosni Mubarak safe haven in Eilat some months ago, the Labor MK told Army Radio in an interview Wednesday morning. He added that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was a party to the offer.
Mubarak, however, "is a patriot and therefore declined the request," Ben-Eliezer said. "I told him that the distance between Sharm e-Shiekh to Eilat is short, and that I knew he is sick."
Speculation had swirled until hours before the start of the trial about whether the 83-year-old, hospitalized in the Red Sea resort since April, would turn up to face charges of conspiring over the killing of demonstrators.
Mubarak's trial is unprecedented. He was forced out of office by his people and is being held to account. Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first Arab leader to be ousted in the Arab Spring, was tried in absentia and is in Saudi Arabia.
Police patrolled the street near Mubarak's hospital and barred the way to a small group of protesters outside, chanting: "The people want the execution of the killer."
In Cairo, the court, with a cage for defendants, has been set up at the Police Academy, with a screen erected outside the building to show the trial.
A small pro-Mubarak rally chanted: "Oh Mubarak hold your head high" and "We will demolish the prison and burn it down, if Hosni Mubarak is sentenced." Another small group against Mubarak called out: "Raise your voice, Freedom will not die."
Medical sources said members of Mubarak's family had arrived at his hospital late on Tuesday, and an airport source said a medically equipped aircraft had landed at the local airport.
Many protesters are determined to see him in the dock and are likely to be enraged if he does not appear. Security was tightened in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Police and military officers in riot gear stood there, with dozens of police trucks and a few army armored personnel trucks.
Many Egyptians see his illness as a ploy so ruling generals can avoid publicly humiliating the war veteran and ex-president who ran Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, for 30 years until he was driven out on Feb. 11.
If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty. In his only public comments since stepping down, he vowed in April to clear his name and that of his family of accusations of corruption.
"If you feel sympathy for any dictator broken and standing in a cage, remember him when he was unjust on the throne," Marian wrote on Twitter, using the website that became a valuable tool in rallying the masses during the 18-day uprising.
The cage stands in a hall that can seat hundreds of people in the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, the same location where two days before protests erupted on Jan. 25 Mubarak praised the work of the police in keeping Egypt secure.
Police used live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas on protesters in Cairo and other cities. In Suez, an effigy of Mubarak hangs from a lamppost near the police station that was gutted by fire during street battles that raged there.
Also standing trial are Mubarak's two sons Gamal, a banker-turned-politician once seen as being groomed for top office, and Alaa, who had business interests. Alongside them will be former interior minister Habib al-Adli, one of the most reviled members of Mubarak's cabinet, and six senior officers.
A business executive and Mubarak confidant, Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia.
Charges range from conspiring in the killing of protesters to abusing power to amass wealth.
Egyptians blame Mubarak for economic policies that they say filled the pockets of the rich while many of the nation's 80 million people scrabbled in squalor to feed their families. They are also angry at his repression of any opposition to his rule.
Yet some are reluctant to see a man who was a bomber pilot and then leader of the air force in the 1973 war with Israel put in the dock.
Activist and director Mohamed Diab wrote on Twitter that the trial was "likely to cause a big rift, just like after his second speech. Imagine Mubarak with white hair, weeping and collapsing in court".
Mubarak, who dyed his hair as he aged in office, had won over some Egyptians with his final speeches that focused on what he described as a lifetime of service. Others were angered by what they saw as his paternalistic and patronizing style.
When the army finally stepped in to take control and he was flown off to internal exile in Sharm e-Sheikh, the streets of the capital and other cities erupted into cheers.