The chief prosecutor in Hosni Mubarak’s trial insisted on Wednesday that he had strong evidence against the fallen dictator in arguing that Mubarak had ordered the killings of anti-regime demonstrators, and accused the interior ministry of hampering the case.
“The prosecution has confirmed that Mubarak, (former interior minister Habib al-) Adly and his aides assisted and incited” the shooting deaths of protesters, the official MENA news agency quoted prosecutor Mustafa Suleiman as saying.
Suleiman said the defendants clearly authorized the use of live ammunition and a shoot-to-kill policy against peaceful protesters. He also complained that the prosecution had to launch its own probe after security authorities ignored the prosecution’s requests for help in the inquiry. Prosecutors interviewed hundreds of witnesses, physicians and police officers to build its case.
He also said that the decision to use live ammunition was taken on Jan. 27 last year, just before the most violent day of the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11.
Dubbed the “Friday of Rage,” Jan. 28 also saw the deployment of army troops in Cairo and across much of the nation, as well as the yet to be explained disappearance of security forces.
The prosecution also showed video of the violence taken by TV stations. They showed police officers loading up their weapons with live ammunition and police and fire engine trucks chasing protesters and running them over. One video showed a police officer perched on top of a police car and killing a protester with a gunshot to the head.
“The defendants before you in the cage are the actual instigators and are the ones who gave police officers the order to shoot,” said Suleiman. He also said that the prosecution has evidence that the regime used “thugs” against the protesters.
“The protesters were peaceful, and it was the police that started firing on them,” he added.
He said that Adly and the country’s intelligence agency ignored the prosecution’s requests for information on the circumstances surrounding the killings. “They deliberately sought to mislead justice,” he said, noting that the widespread disarray in the state at the time of the probe or the wish to protect their own may have been behind the lack of cooperation.
The ailing 83-year-old former strongman is accused of involvement in the deaths of more than 800 protesters during the uprising that overthrew him in February.
Adly and six security chiefs were also in the dock, as were Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who are being tried on corruption charges.
The trial was adjourned to Thursday, when the prosecution is expected to ask for the maximum sentence for the accused.
'tyrannical leader '
On Tuesday, Suleiman described Mubarak as a “tyrannical leader who sought to hand power to his younger son Gamal, who spread corruption in the country and opened the door to his friends and relatives, ruining the country without any accountability.
The trial began on August 3 after months of protests to pressure the military rulers to place the former strongman on trial along with ex-regime officials.
There was a three months hiatus in which lawyers for the alleged victims unsuccessfully sought the dismissal of Judge Ahmed Refaat, whom they accused of bias towards the defense.
Relatives of those who died in the protests say their hopes to see Mubarak sentenced have been dashed by a string of witnesses who mostly confirmed the defense’s case that the former president never gave orders to shoot protesters.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s former defense minister and now the country’s military ruler, testified behind close doors. The court issued a gag order on his testimony, but lawyers say he did not incriminate Mubarak.
Mubarak is in custody in a military hospital on Cairo’s outskirts, where he is being treated for a heart condition. His lawyer says he suffers from stomach cancer.
Wednesday’s hearing coincided with the second day of voting in the third and final round of parliamentary elections that began on Nov. 28. Even before the final round, Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest political group, were assured of a majority in the new legislature. They are likely to bolster their gains in the final round, since many of the nine provinces voting have been traditional Islamist strongholds.
The elections, the fairest and freest in decades, have attracted a heavy turnout. Final results were due to be announced Jan. 13.
The military officers who have taken over from Mubarak when he stepped down on Feb. 11 say presidential elections will be held before the end of June, but they are yet to announce an exact date for the vote and for formally handing over power to a civilian administration.
Activists have been pointing to what they see as mounting signs of a confluence of interests between the Brotherhood and the ruling generals. They fear their understanding could lead to shelving reforms for greater democracy they hoped for after Mubarak's fall.
Activists accuse the Brotherhood of opportunism and a determination to seize power. The group initially stayed out of the anti-Mubarak uprising, though its disciplined followers later lent considerable street muscle to protesters' street battles against security forces and Mubarak loyalists. It has since largely stayed out of antimilitary demonstrations, arguing that it was relying on the democratic process, rather than protests.
The Mubarak trial brings out conflicting visions. Reformers and the victims’ families clamor for a full measure of justice, while many others want the turbulence to end so that Egypt’s battered economy can move toward stability.