Clashes at Mubarak trial, anti-riot chief fingered



CAIRO, Samer al-Atrush- Backers and foes of Hosni Mubarak clashed Monday as a first witness in the ousted president's trial pointed a finger of blame at the chief of anti-riot forces for dozens of deaths in Egypt's revolution.
With television cameras banned inside, clashes took place outside and lawyers bickered in the heavily-guarded courtroom where Mubarak was brought in on a stretcher for the third hearing of his trial which opened on August 3.



Clashes at Mubarak trial, anti-riot chief fingered
Egypt's former strongman, 83, is accused of involvement in the killings of hundreds of anti-regime activists during the 18-day revolt which in February ended his three decades in power, as well as corruption.
Monday's session heard four witnesses to try to determine who gave the orders for the shooting of protesters during the January-February revolution.
The court said the next hearing will be held on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent who covered Monday's hearing said.
Hussein Saeed Mursi, who headed the anti-riot police's communications department at the time of the uprising, singled out General Ahmed Ramzi, head of anti-riot forces, as having given "clear instructions to protect the interior ministry and deal with the demonstrators with automatic weapons."
He said rubber bullets were also used, in reference to clashes on January 28 in which 62 people were reported killed.
Ramzi is one of the accused in the trial along with Mubarak, former interior minister Habib al-Adly and other police officials, while the ex-president's two sons Alaa and Gamal are being tried on graft charges, as well as their father.
Mursi also said he heard police officials discussing the use of ambulances to carry "weapons and ammunition because police vehicles were being attacked" by protesters.
The court is trying to determine whether orders for police to fire on crowds were given solely by the interior ministry or if Mubarak was also implicated.
Mubarak could face the death penalty if found guilty of involvement in the killings.
More than 850 people were killed in the revolt which led to Mubarak's ouster after three decades in power and thousands more were wounded, according to official figures.
Footage on state television showed Mubarak arriving for Monday's hearing at the police academy in Cairo's northern suburb in an ambulance on a stretcher, after a helicopter flew him in from hospital.
Before he drew up under heavy security, demonstrators clashed near the courtroom.
"We have not abandoned you," pro-Mubarak protesters chanted, while their rivals, including family members of victims of the deadly uprising, shouted, "Punishment, punishment, they killed our children with bullets."
The MENA state news agency reported that a dozen people were injured in the scuffles, and police made about 20 arrests.
Anti-riot policemen also clashed with family members of victims of the uprising that ousted Mubarak's autocratic regime, as law enforcement agents tried to prevent them from crashing the gates to the courtroom.
Inside the police academy courtroom, the mood was charged particularly when a defence lawyer raised a picture of Mubarak, prompting the wrath of representatives of the victims.
The decision to stop the live television broadcast was taken by trial judge Ahmed Refaat, who was apparently exasperated by the charged atmosphere at the last hearing as an army of lawyers jostled for position.
Mubarak's first dramatic appearance in court on August 3 came as a shock to Egyptians who were glued to watching the proceedings on television, never having believed he would be forced to go on trial.
The former president, who suffers from heart problems and depression, is in custody in a hospital near Cairo, while reports that he was also suffering from cancer have been denied.
His sons are being held in the Tora prison complex on the southern outskirts of Cairo. A wealthy businessman close to the former presidential clan, Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia in the same corruption trial.
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Tuesday, September 6th 2011
Samer al-Atrush
           


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