Lying on a hospital bed behind metal bars in a Cairo courtroom, Hosni Mubarak, the ousted Egyptian president, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and corruption at the start of a trial that few of his countrymen could have imagined only a year ago.
Looking gaunt but alert, the 83-year-old former president, appearing in public for the first time since he stepped down on February 11, spoke only once into a court microphone to enter his plea saying that he “totally denied all the charges”.
Mr Mubarak was wheeled into the courtroom in his hospital bed after arriving in Cairo aboard an air ambulance, which brought him from the hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been held.
Many Egyptians had feared that the generals in the military council now ruling the country would try to spare their former leader the humiliation of a court appearance. But public pressure to hold the Mubarak family to account had been mounting in recent months with large demonstrations calling for a trial.
The murder charges against the former president stem from the killing of some 850 demonstrators – mostly by police bullets – during the 18-day uprising that led him to relinquish power and hand over his authorities to a council of senior army commanders.
Mr Mubarak’s sons, Alaa, and Gamal, also denied accusations of corruption related to abuse of power and improper financial dealings with Hussein Salem, a businessman and friend of their father who is being tried in his absence in the same court case.
Dressed in white prison uniforms, the two sons stood in front of their father’s bed, appearing to shield him from the cameras during four hours in court.
Only a handful of victims injured in the uprising were admitted. Maher Abdel Wahab, 65, a university lecturer, said he had been shot by a policeman despite putting his hands up in the air and facing a wall to signal that he was a peaceful demonstrator.
“They need to be in prison and to be treated just like ordinary inmates, with no perks at all,” he said. “These people unleashed their forces against Egyptians in a manner more suitable to the jungle. I feel the case is now moving, even if there is still a lack of trust because those in charge still belong to the old regime.”
The judge has adjourned the case until August 15.
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