Egypt’s Mubarak waves, grins as his uprising trial resumes

By Aya Batrawy, AP

CAIRO–Egypt’s ousted long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak was back in court Saturday, grinning and waving as his trial resumed on charges related to the killings of some 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising that led to his ouster.

The 85-year-old former president was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killings, but his sentence was overturned on appeal earlier this year and a retrial was ordered.

The retrial comes against the backdrop of continued turmoil in Egypt. Unrest has spiked after the popularly backed July 3 military coup that toppled Mubarak’s successor, Mohammed Morsi. The interim, military-backed government has targeted members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and arrested hundreds on charges of inciting violence.

Morsi himself is detained at an unknown location and a state of emergency was imposed following a deadly crackdown on his supporters last month. Morsi, who was Egypt’s first freely elected president, faces accusations of conspiring with Palestinian gunmen from neighboring Gaza Strip in his escape from prison during the anti-Mubarak uprising.

One of the defendants’ lawyers in Mubarak’s trial on Saturday suggested that the Brotherhood and Palestinian militants were behind the killings of protesters during the uprising.

The case against Mubarak also involves seven top security officials, including Mubarak’s ex-Interior Minister Habib el-Adly. They all face charges of complicity in the killings during the 18-day uprising.

Mubarak, his two sons and a business aide — who has since fled Egypt and is being tried in absentia — also face corruption charges in the same case. Both of Mubarak’s sons were in the Cairo court with him on Saturday.

Mubarak was wheeled into the defendants’ cage in the heavily-fortified courtroom for the hearing, broadcast live on state television. The former president sat upright, waving to two female supporters who snapped photos of him with their tablet.

Judge Mahmoud el-Rachidi ordered a media blackout of the next three sessions, scheduled to run from Oct. 19 until Oct. 21. The sessions will include testimonies from former security officials, including ex-Interior Minister Ahmed Gamaleddin and ex-intelligence chief Murad Muwafi. Egypt’s current oil minister, Sherif Ismail, is also to give testimony in relation to the corruption charges.

The judge ordered the court closed for the upcoming testimonies, barring anyone from attending except lawyers. Journalists will not be allowed to report anything on the testimonies or even quote lawyers who attend the sessions.

Similarly in late 2011, secretive figures in Mubarak’s inner circle testified in his initial trial under a media gag order.

In previous courtroom appearances, the former president was lying on a gurney, but he has appeared more confident since his release from prison last month. After his release, Mubarak was ordered detained at a military hospital pending trial in other corruption cases.

Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and one-time heir apparent Gamal, remain in prison pending their trial on separate corruption charges.

Outside the court, about 30 Mubarak supporters brandished his picture and shouted in his support. There were around five other protesters, apparently relatives of demonstrators slain in the anti-Mubarak uprising who were not allowed in the courtroom.