First day of Mubarak trial ends with plea of not guilty to all charges
The Egyptian people had their first sight of former president Hosni Mubarak, 83, since his overthrow on Feb. 11 lying on a stretcher facing trial Aug. 3 in an iron cage with his sons, Gemal and Alla, and seven police officials, including former interior minister Habib al-Adli. The Middle East found that image even more stunning than the sight of Saddam Hussein at his 2004 trial. Judge Ahmed Rifaat opened the televised session in the electrically charged Cairo Police Academy courtroom and adjourned it soon after till Aug. 15. The charges against the ex-president of killing 800 protesters and abuse of power to amass wealth could carry the death penalty.
All the defendants led by Hosni Mubarak and his sons pleaded not guilty and denied all the accusations and charges put to them in court.
Although ailing, the 83 year old former president was soon on TV screens around the world to be fully conscious and taking a lively interest in the proceedings, now and again exchanging comments with his sons.His wife Susan was absent.
As the military regime intended, the Egyptian people were treated to the sight of their ruler of 30 years in prison uniform lying on a hospital bed in a cage on trial for his life before a civilian court.
A large screen was posted outside the courtroom which was secured by 5,000 police and security officers. More than 600 spectators packed the seats inside. Dozens of lawyers jostled each other for the microphone for a stream of arguments on points of order and demands to separate the cases instead of a collective trial.
The first defendant was Al-Hadli. His counsel claimed his client did not give the order to fire on protesters and demanded police generals be called to testify. Police earlier broke up violent clashes outside the courtroom between pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators.
debkafile reported earlier:
The Egyptian people will have their first glimpse of their former president Hosni Mubarak since his overthrow on Feb. 11 and retirement to Sharm el-Sheikh when he goes on trial Wednesday, Aug. 3 before television cameras with his two sons, Alaa and Gamal. With him wil be the former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six other senior officers.
The charges against the ex-president of killing demonstrators during the uprising that ousted him and abuse of power to amass wealth carry sentences ranging from five years in jail to the death penalty. His sons face lesser charges and prison.
After spending seven months at the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the public will see their former president and his sons in a special cage built for the trial. Judge Ahmed Refaat decided the proceedings should be aired live by state television, because, he said, "I believe in the right of the people" to see justice done.
Prominent businessman Hussein Salem will be tried in absentia. He was arrested on an international warrant and is currently hospitalized in Spain. Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli is one of Egypt's most hated figures for the brutal methods his police force used to crush opposition, notably in the early days of the uprising on Jan. 25.
The 83-year old ailing former Egyptian president, accompanied by a full team of doctors and paramedics equipped with life support gear, is to be flown around dawn on Wednesday morning from the Red Sea resort to the Police Academy in New Cairo ahead of his trial. Hundreds of officers are securing Mubarak’s transfer.
Despite his failing health, the military rulers of Egypt are determined to stage the trial in order to appease the al-Tahrir Square protesters who still don't believe Mubarak's old comrades will go through with the promised reforms or bring the ex-president, a former air force chief, to justice.
One of the three main charges against Mubarak, his sons and Salem is that they exported gas to Israel for prices below the market rateand shared out the difference between them. The trial may be expected to occasion anti-Israel outbursts and further sour relations between Jerusalem and Cairo. It is not by chance that the Sinai pipeline carrying Egyptian gas to Israel was sabotaged five times since the revolution, the last time just before the Mubarak trial.
Up until the last minute, it was not clear whether the former president would be permitted to make a dignified appearance in court – he routinely touched up his hair and used makeup before appearing in public – or be humbled by being forced to appear as an ageing, sick, unshaven wreck.
Mubarak was treated for cancer before his ouster and has since suffered several heart attacks. A bed was installed in the cage surrounding the dock in case of his collapse.
According to some Arab sources, the military junta will not keep Mubarak present at all the court sessions but place him there from time to time. After the trial opens, he will be said to have collapsed and allowed to reappear when it suits the military rulers in consultation with his medical attendants.
The 25 generals of the military junta will decide how best to show the former president in public in accordance with their interests – whether the hale and hearty former war hero or a sorry spectacle.
They are using the trial to serve two objectives:
1. Distract popular attention from the breakdown of law and order and an economy going to wrack and ruin since they took charge of government in Cairo.
2. Give the public a show trial to keep them unaware of how slowly and selectively they are allowing the political reforms they promised to go forward. Our sources report that the trappings of democracy such as parliamentary elections and freedom of the press will eventually be instituted – with one important caveat: The generals will stay in power. The new constitution in preparation will guarantee the military rulers the last word in all important state matters, with the power to veto new laws.
The two Arab rulers who will watch the TV broadcasts from Cairo most intently are Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and Bashar Assad of Syria. The sight of Hosni Mubarak in a cage will strengthen their resolve never to let themselves be forced out of power.
Saudi King Abdullah will be another interested spectator. He blames US President Barack Obama as chiefly responsible for the wretched downfall of his good friend and ally Hosni Mubarak and will not forgive him in a hurry.