Egypt's Mubarak back in court over protester deaths

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 06, 2011 7:19 PM
Egypt's Mubarak back in court over protester deaths

By Yasmine Saleh and Shaimaa Fayed

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court trying Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters who ousted him will hear more testimonies on Wednesday after police witnesses suggested this week that neither he nor his interior minister gave orders to shoot.

One of the lawyers representing families of victims voiced frustration with the witnesses at Monday's session -- attended by Mubarak lying on a hospital trolley in the defendant's cage -- saying they had given different answers before the trial.

"They have changed the testimonies they previously gave to the prosecution which makes them unreliable," Amir Salem said, reflecting a view held by other lawyers representing victims' families.

"We will have the testimonies of another four witnesses also from the police but they could be from different departments," he said of Wednesday's session.

Egyptians who helped oust the 83-year-old Mubarak after 30 years in power have regularly gathered at the court on the outskirts of Cairo demanding swift justice for about 850 people killed in the uprising.

Supporters of Mubarak, who has been in hospital since April and attended all three court sessions on a stretcher, have scuffled with them.

Mubarak, the first Arab head of state to be tried in person since unrest erupted across the Middle East this year, is charged with conspiring to kill protesters and "inciting" some officers to use live ammunition.

A top police officer told the court on Monday he was not aware of any order to fire on protesters although he said police were given live ammunition to protect the Interior Ministry.

General Hussein Saeed Mohamed Moussa, in charge of communications for state security, said he believed the decision to issue arms was taken by a police officer, Ahmed Ramzi, who is on trial alongside Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli.

Two other police witnesses said they were told to exercise "self restraint" during the uprising.

Scuffles erupted outside the court at each of the three earlier sessions in the trial which began on August 3. At the latest session on Monday, Mubarak's opponents hurled stones at lines of police, who charged them.

Many Egyptians are angry with the police for the tough tactics they used during the uprising. Egyptian witnesses have said officers used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and live ammunition against demonstrators during the revolt.

"Our family members are gone. We carried their bodies, drenched in blood. If Mubarak is acquitted, you know what it means? The country's going to face more destruction," Ola Ahmed, who had two cousins killed in the uprising, said on Monday.

A fight broke out inside the courtroom on Monday between supporters and opponents of the former president, prompting the police to step in.

Egypt's justice minister agreed to let five Kuwaiti lawyers join the Mubarak defense team, the state news agency MENA said.

The Kuwaiti lawyers, who were not allowed into the last session, have said their decision to volunteer for Mubarak's defense was in recognition for his role in supporting a U.S-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of the Gulf Arab state in 1991.

(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Philippa Fletcher)