Amid chaotic scenes both inside and outside the courtroom, Hosni Mubarak was today in court to face charges of economic corruption, illegal business dealings and the unlawful killing of pro-democracy protesters.
The once-powerful dictator was stretchered into the defendants’ cage dressed in white prison overalls. Anyone would be forgiven for not immediately recognising this pathetic figure as the same man who once inspired terror in the hearts of so many Egyptians.
The 83-year-old remained almost entirely silent throughout, speaking once only to confirm his name and make his plea:
I deny all these charges and accusations categorically.
Mubarak’s sons and co-defendants – Alaa and Gamal – also pled innocent.
The last time Mubarak appeared on live television was in February, when he refused to resign his post. Less than six months later, the toppled leader potentially faces the death penalty if found guilty of the crimes of which he is accused.
Outside the courthouse, many watched the trial on television at home or huddled around giant public screens. Street fights broke out between rival demonstrators with 53 reported injured, despite the presence of thousands of soldiers and riot police. Egypt’s political uncertainties, compounded by Mubarak’s trial, have now seen the country’s shares drop to a two-month low.
Mubarak’s trial has been adjourned until 15 August. Meanwhile, former interior minister Habib el-Adly’s resumes tomorrow. Along with six senior police deputies, el-Adly faces charges similar to those of Mubarak.
For many, this trial represents a significant stage in an ongoing battle to improve Egypt’s human rights situation. Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and north Africa Malcolm Smart said:
This trial presents a historic opportunity for Egypt to hold a former leader and his inner-circle to account for crimes committed during their rule.