Clashes erupt outside court as Egypt′s Mubarak pleads ′not guilty′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 03.08.2011
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Clashes erupt outside court as Egypt's Mubarak pleads 'not guilty'

The opening session of ex-President Hosni Mubarak's trial has been adjourned after he pleaded "not guilty" to charges of murder and corruption. Over 50 people were injured after clashes broke out outside the court.

Egyptian policeman try to block protesters during clashes between 'pro and anti-Mubarak' protesters

Security was tight outside the court as the trial commenced

Many Egyptians never believed it possible. On Wednesday, ex-President Hosni Mubarak went on trial at the Cairo Police Academy which once bore his name. In the opening session, the former ruler pleaded "not guilty."

Mubarak denied charges of murder and corruption, which could carry the death penalty.

"All these charges, I deny them completely," Mubarak said from his stretcher in the court room, contesting the accusations of fraud and of the premeditated murder of anti-regime protesters who toppled his regime.

Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal, as well his former interior minister Habib al-Adli and six former security aides who are also on trial, pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

As the session came to an end, the presiding judge adjourned the court until August 15. Judge Ahmed Rafaat ruled that Mubarak and his sons would be required to attend the next session.

In the meantime, the former leader must be held in a hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, where he can receive full medical treatment.

Separately, the judge said the court would reconvene for the case of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli on August 4.

Clashes outside court

The trial against the ousted strongman began Wednesday morning, with the ailing former leader lying in a large, black metal cage in the courtroom, wearing a white prison uniform and an oxygen mask.

Egyptian State Television shows Mubarak lying on a stretcher in court

Mubarak denied the charges from a stretcher inside a cage

The 83-year-old faces charges of stealing millions of dollars from the Egyptian state and ordering the killing of more than 800 protesters during the January 25 uprising.

Lawyers for protesters who were killed accused the former ruler of deliberately planning their deaths. The lawyers asked the court to hand the "harshest punishment" to all the defendants.

But Mubarak's defense lawyers said his trial was illegal because it was merged with that of interior minister, Habib al-Adli. They requested that the court summon the chief of the ruling military council, Hussein Tantwai, and former Vice President Omar Suliman to be cross-examined.

Outside the courtroom, loyalists and foes of the former president played out the courtroom conflict. Scores of riot police were deployed as sporadic clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Mubarak. Medical sources reported that at least 53 people were injured.

Pro-Mubarak protesters carried pictures of him, while his opponents held up posters of the former president behind a noose.

The crowd, which included the families of victims killed during the uprising, had been watching the historic trial on a large screen outside the Police Academy.

'Fit for trial'

Earlier Wednesday morning, authorities removed Mubarak from the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh where he has been treated for a heart condition.

Until Wednesday, there was continued uncertainty as to whether the former autocrat's health would prevent him from facing trial at all.

An Egyptian protester holds a hanging rope as others hold the Egyptian National flag outside the court

Even sentencing Mubarak may not heal divisions in Egypt

Many in Egypt had been skeptical that Mubarak would ever see the inside of a court room, despite Health Minister Amr Hilmi's recent announcement that Mubarak was well enough to be tried.

Mubarak's health failed dramatically after 18 days of street protests finally brought to an end his 30-year, iron-fisted rule in February. It is said that soon after his spectacular downfall, Mubarak briefly slipped into a coma.

While there had been some discussion over moving the trial to Sharm el-Sheikh, any deviation from the original plan to try him in Cairo could have further angered hundreds of protestors, who have returned to the capital's now iconic Tahrir Square to demand that Mubarak should face swift justice in a public trial.

A Cairo trial was a key demand of the protesters who ousted the Mubarak regime, and with tensions already high between Mubarak's critics and the ruling Supreme Council Armed Forces (SCAF) over the speed of reforms and the bringing to justice of former regime figures, there was a danger that any delay or postponement would trigger further unrest.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Editor: Michael Lawton

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