Three years after the downfall of Egypt's long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president, his interior minister and his aides were given court time not only to defend themselves but to claim the 2011 uprising was either a foreign plot or hijacked by conspirators.
In lengthy court sessions over five days, Mubarak said on Wednesday the protests were co-opted by conspirators and insisted he never ordered the killing of demonstrators. His interior minister Habib El-Adly and former security heads all spoke of the popular revolt as a US conspiracy implemented by the Muslim Brotherhood to topple the Egyptian state and take over power.
Mubarak was forced out of power on 11 February 2011, following 18 days of mass protests and large scale violence that killed more than 800 protesters. He, along with his two sons and his interior minister, are facing trials on a variety of charges including complicity in the death of protesters.
The former autocrat was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 but the verdict was appealed in January 2013 as the presiding judge said there was not enough evidence from the prosecution. A retrial started in April 2013.
The judge, however, excused himself without citing reasons and a new judge, Mahmoud Kamel El-Rashidi, is now handling the case.
El-Rashidi said Wednesday that a final verdict will be issued 27 September.
In a nearly 30-minute speech, Mubarak, 86, boasted to the presiding judge and the public of his achievements during his three decades of rule, defending himself and saying that this might be "his last address to the nation."
"[I] would never order the killings of protesters and shedding Egyptians' blood, while I spent my life defending this country and its people," Mubarak said.
"I did not order to spread chaos, of which I had repeatedly warned of its dangers," the aging leader added.
Wearing a blue prison uniform and dark glasses, Mubarak said in a shaky voice that he "deliberately chose" to step down from the presidency.
"Religion traders and their local and foreign allies penetrated the peaceful protests and turned them into acts of violence, killing, robbery, and terror," he said, referring to the Brotherhood, officially branded a terrorist group by authorities late last year.
Mubarak's interior ministry and security heads took even more time to detail their views of the events.
El-Adly said that the US used two pro-democracy groups – the April 6 Youth Movement and Kefaya – along with the Brotherhood to execute its "plot" against Egypt and the Middle East under the cover of spreading democracy.
He said the police did not pull out from the streets to spread chaos – rather, they were "defeated."
Brushing off accusations against the police, El-Adly said foreign elements from Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah entered Egypt through tunnels on 27 January and killed protesters. The Brotherhood, El-Adly continued, spread rumours that the police were killing protesters to turn the public's emotions against the regime.
"January 2011 was not a revolution," El-Adly boldly stated. "If the current authorities consider it a revolution for political consideration, I understand as a former minister in a top authority."
Old regime 'gone forever'
The prolonged session in which the former regime defendants attempted to redefine key political events was emotional – provocative for some and expected for some others.
"For sure, they consider it a conspiracy, because it ended their rule," Mohamed Abul-Ghar, a politician from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, told Ahram Online.
Abul-Ghar was also a member of the constituent assembly which drafted Egypt's new constitution, passed by referendum in 2014. The constitution itself states that the "25 January-30 June revolution is unique among the major revolutions in the history of humanity."
The 30 June "revolution" refers to the toppling of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer, after days of mass protests against his rule.
"They are defending themselves in conditions that might make some simple people believe them," Abul-Ghar said. "The revolution has not ruled, but Egyptians have drastically changed and will not accept anything but a changed situation."
The court hearing was exclusively aired on Sada El-Balad, a private television channel, and not aired on state television, a fact that astonished some spectators, Abul-Ghar among them.
"The channel of a key businessman of the Mubarak era is given the chance to put Mubarak on air to defend himself in front of the public," Abul-Ghar said.
He said that despite many Egyptians being frustrated with the idea of the revolution and yearning for stability, he is certain that the ideologies have changed and that these old-regime figures "are gone forever."
The National Association for Change, founded by prominent liberal and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei in 2010 as an opposition group against Mubarak's regime, called this week's courtroom testimonies a "systemised campaign to defame the revolution."
"To say it was a foreign conspiracy is an insult to the Egyptian constitution, to the  June revolution and to the martyrs' blood," Ahmed Taha Noqr, a member of the group, told a press conference Wednesday.
Noqr also told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website that they will start a campaign to open up corruption cases from the Mubarak era, including accounts of stealing public funds and national land and selling public sector businesses.
Political activist and Constitution Party member Alfred Raouf believes the court session was "provocative" – at least for a large sector of Egyptian society who participated in the uprising and know they are not members of Hamas or Hezbollah – and for him, who says he witnessed the police shooting at protesters during the 2011 protests.
He said the "empathy" of the presiding judge, often seen smiling on TV during the proceedings, is "not only provocative but also stirs worry concerning the final verdict."
"We already have enough problems that people are suffering from. If there's an acquittal now, it will be like spilling gas on fire," Raouf said.