3 Aug 2011

Mubarak in court on uprising deaths

As the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak opens in Cairo, the father of a man who died in the uprising tells Channel 4 News his former president “must be punished”.

Mr Mubarak is being tried alongside his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and the ex-interior minister, Habib al-Adli, as well as six other officials.

His historic trial, which opened today, comes almost six months after he was toppled from power during the unprecedented uprising of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in February.

My son is in a good place now, but I think he [Mubarak] must be punished for what happened. Taha Hussein, whose son was killed in the protests

The 83-year-old former leader is accused of corruption and unlawful killing. He denies the charges but if convicted could face the death penalty.

At least 840 protesters were killed and thousands more injured when police were reportedly ordered to fire on people calling for an end to Mubarak’s rule in January and February this year.

The trial is being broadcast live in Egypt, and it is thought that millions tuned in to witness scenes that only a year ago would have been unbelievable.

Taha Hussein, whose son Hussein Taha Hussein was shot and killed in Alexandria during the protests, told Channel 4 News it was a very important moment for him and for others in Egypt.

“Seeing Mubarak in the cage, that can complete the change,” he said.

“My son is in a good place now, but I think he [Mubarak] must be punished for what happened. I am watching and I am going to try and watch the whole thing.”

Mubarak’s lawyers had been accused of trying to postpone the trial with claims that he was too ill to stand trial. The former Egyptian leader appeared in court today on a stretcher, inside a cage with the other defendants. He lay silently as the names of some of those killed were read out in court.

The courtroom was at times chaotic, with lawyers shouting over each other to be heard amid some bizarre claims. One lawyer said it was a clone in the dock, not the real Mubarak; another asked for £1bn in compensation; and Mubarak’s own lawyer called for more than 1,600 witnesses to be heard.

Part of the case has now been adjourned until Thursday, part until 15 August.

Is Mubarak getting a fair trial?
Regardless of what he is accused of, President Hosni Mubarak deserves a fair trial, human rights groups have said.

Amnesty International‘s Mohamed Lotfy told Channel 4 News: “The trial of Mubarak has to be impeccable. It’s a new page in the history of Egypt that has to be started with a fair, transparent trial that reveals the full truth about what happened during the uprising.

“I have met many of the families of victims across Egypt and they are longing for justice and justice has to be served. But the defendants have to have the right to be able to defend themselves during the trial as well as they can. It’s a moment of truth, a moment for justice.”

Protests and anger

Earlier, police stepped in to separate some protesters outside the court who were throwing stones and bottles.

Their presence was a sign of the continuing depth of rage felt towards the deposed Egyptian leader as well as the ongoing anger felt in Egypt by protesters who feel that not enough has changed since Mubarak stepped down.

After Mubarak resigned, the army took control of the country via a transitional council. Elections have been promised in the autumn but the protesters want decisive change more quickly.

Violence has flared up in Tahrir Square several times since February, when the army cracked down on protesters in a manner reminiscent of the Mubarak regime. Two months on from the revolution, Channel 4 News heard allegations of military abuse.

Amnesty International’s Mohamed Lotfy said: “The most important thing is not to repeat the abuses of the past. We have continued to document torture by military police and disappearances.

“We are worried this continues to exist. Old habits die hard but these issues have to be sorted among the Egyptian political and public arena.”