Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appeared in an Egyptian court on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of demonstrators during the popular uprising that led to his ousting in February.
Mubarak, who had exiled himself to a Red Sea resort in Sharm el-Sheikh, was wheeled into the defendant’s cage on a hospital stretcher flanked by his sons Alaa and Gamal, in a courtroom in a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo that once used to bear his name above its door.
The 83 year-old was accused by the prosecutor of authorising the use of live ammunition for crowd control and intentionally killing peaceful protesters, 850 of whom died during the riots.
The first Arab leader to stand trial for his response to the Arab Spring was also charged with corruption and wasting public funds, and abusing his power to amass private wealth. Early forensic accountancy reports aired in the UK press suggested this could be as high as US$70 billion, while the Washington Post subsequently reported that including cash, gold and other state-owned valuables the amount could well reach US$700 billion – US$200 million more than Egypt’s GDP.
Mubarak spoke little as the charges were read out, only stating “I entirely deny all those accusations.”
The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that Mubarak’s lawyer Farid el-Deeb, who is among Egypt’s most famous and known for both his “exquisite politeness” and “snappy dressing”, intends to present 1600 witnesses to the court.
Judge Ahmed Refaat of the fifth district of the Cairo criminal court, who is presiding over the case, meanwhile “has a reputation as Mr Clean and a track record of judging politically sensitive cases”.
Egypt meanwhile remains under the control of a military council led by a former defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who has promised a transition to democracy and has kept a low profile despite continuing protests in Cairo’s Tahir Square.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, was the highest profile victim of the Arab Uprising, a series of mass protests across the Arab World that has seen the fall of many long-serving dictators, including Tunisian President Ben Ali, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and potentially, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. President Bashir of Sudan has announced he will not seek another term, as has Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq.
Widespread killing of demonstrators continues in Syria, with more than 2000 deaths reported so far. Libyan casualties have surpassed 13,000 as Muammar Gaddafi clings to power despite months of NATO bombings.