CAIRO: Hosni Mubarak, who governed Egypt for 30 years before a popular uprising toppled him last year, will hear a judge rule on Saturday on whether he is guilty of graft and complicity in the killing of protesters.
Hundreds of police surrounded the court set up at the Police Academy on Cairo’s outskirts. Protesters gathered outside holding up images of those killed in the uprising and calling for Mubarak’s execution. “Dear God, take Mubarak and those with him!” they chanted.
If convicted, the 84-year-old former president could face anything from a few years in jail to the death penalty.
Few Egyptians expect he will go to the gallows, even if some think that is what he deserves. Protesters have often hung his effigy from lamp posts since he fell.
Mubarak’s two sons, standing trial with their father, alongside his former interior minister and six other senior officers, arrived at the court, state media reported.
It is the first time an Arab leader ousted by his people has been placed before a regular court. Mubarak’s trial had Arabs glued to the television last year and sent a message to other autocrats battling rebellions what fate might await them.
“Mubarak’s trial has the potential to set a meaningful regional precedent for accountability for human rights abuses and for upholding international fair trial standards,” Human Rights Watch wrote in a report before the session.
But the ruling could not come at a more sensitive time for Egypt, right in the middle of a fraught presidential election that pits a figure from the Muslim Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak, against the deposed leader’s last prime minister.
The verdict could herald more political turmoil, although Judge Ahmed Refaat, who has already had three months to consider his decision, could postpone it if he needs more time.
“It cannot be that, after 15 months of the revolution and the crimes committed, Mubarak is not punished. This would destroy any trust in the judiciary,” said engineer Saad Ali, 35.
An acquittal or a light sentence could send protesters back on the streets. Many are already angry that the hated police force, blamed for about 850 deaths in the uprising, and other pillars of Mubarak’s rule have survived his downfall intact.