The trial of Hosni Mubarak resumed on Monday amid speculation that a recent acquittal of policemen tried in the killings of protesters could be a prelude to the dismissal of charges against the ousted Egyptian leader.
Mubarak is charged with complicity in the killing of more than 800 protesters during the uprising that toppled his 29-year regime last year.
The 83-year-old ailing Mubarak was brought by helicopter to the Cairo courthouse from a hospital where he is held in custody. He was then taken into the defendants’ cage on a gurney, wearing dark sunglasses and covered by a green blanket.
Another Cairo court on Thursday acquitted five policemen of charges of killing five protesters in the capital’s el-Sayedah Zeinab district during the 25 January-11 February uprising. The court said three of the defendants were not at the site of the killings while the other two fired on protesters in self defense.
The ruling angered families of the victims. Activists demanded that the killers be brought to justice and complained that similar cases are languishing in courts in several Egyptian cities.
On trial with Mubarak are his two sons, Gamal, his one-time heir apparent, and Alaa, along with the ousted leader’s former security chief and six top police commanders. The Mubaraks face additional corruption charges in the same case.
The trial began on 3 August but has since been bogged down in procedural matters, including a demand by lawyers for the victims that the presiding judge, Ahmed Rifaat, be removed. That request alone took a separate court about three months to rule on.
Monday’s hearing was adjourned until Tuesday, when the court is due to hear from the prosecution.
The acquittal of the police officers in el-Sayedah Zeinab and the relatively long time the Mubarak trial is taking before even starting to deal with the core of the charges against him have led many activists to brand the proceedings a farce, organized by the generals who took over power when the longtime leader was ousted.
The generals are led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defense minister for the last 20 years he spent in office.
The activists believe the generals remain beholden to the Mubarak regime, and only placed the former president and his two sons under arrest after mounting pressure by protesters. The Mubaraks were arrested in April, two months after the ouster of the regime. Activists believe this was long enough for the three to conceal evidence of their alleged involvement in either the killings or corruption.