Fourth session of Mubarak trial ends with big surprise

Lina El-Wardani , Wednesday 7 Sep 2011

The latest session of the Mubarak trial is adjourned till tomorrow, while the trial judge calls on Tantawi, Annan, Suleiman and interior ministers Essawy and Wagdy to come forward with testimony

Hosni Mubarak
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lies on his bed while being taken to the courtroom for another session of his trial in Cairo, Egypt, on Wednesday Sept. 7, 2011. (Photo: AP)

Presiding judge Ahmed Refaat adjourned the fourth session of the Mubarak trial until tomorrow, deciding that the trial will now be held on a daily basis.

Following requests of both the prosecution and defence, the court has agreed to summon Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces, to give testimony in a closed session Sunday, 11 September.

On Monday, 12 September, the court will hear General Sami Annan, the army chief of staff. On Tuesday, the court will summon Omar Suleiman, the former vice president and longtime intelligence chief under Mubarak. On Wednesday and Thursday, the former and current interior ministers will testify in court, all in closed session, where media will not be allowed.

By calling on these high-ranking generals to attend to court, especially the de facto ruler, Tantawi, many observers are feeling more confident that the case is becoming more serious. Under the gaze of the media, some had felt the lawyers were grandstanding for fame, rather than dealing with the charges filed.

Many also consider this a significant step forward, as lawyers have asked for the testimony of Tantawi in particular, as he served as defence minister for two decades under the veteran president. Equally, lawyers have frequently expressed their wish to question former vice president and intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman, who said that Mubarak was aware of every bullet fired during the revolution.

By the end of today's session, Refaat released the fifth witness, Central Security Captain Mohamed Abdel Hakim Amar, who was earlier in the same session arrested on charges of “false testimony in favour of the accused”. Amar testified in court that anti-riot units deployed in Cairo on 28 January had been equipped with blank ammunition and tear gas, whereas he had said in previous interrogation that hunting ammunition had been provided and used.

The court session today was much more organised than previous sessions. There were, however, a few fights between victims lawyers in the beginning of the session which were soon settled when lawyers decided that former union leader Sameh Ashour will be representing them all. The rest of the session went smoothly.

The previous sessions, especially the last one on Monday, were widely criticised, in that victims' lawyers insisted on fighting with each other on who will speak first. Also in the last session fights errupted between defendants and victims' lawyers, leading to many interruptions in the session and a very lengthy hearing that ended at 10pm.

Some lawyers reportedly withdrew from the session today, protesting that it was too chaotic. However, eyewitnesses say the rest of the hearing went smoothly and it was more calm than any of the previous sessions in the historic trial. Three witnesses were heard today, all police officers, and their testimonies were discussed by prosecution and defence.

To the shock of many, especially the prosecutuion, the witnesses all denied their previous testimonies where they said that police used live ammunition during the initial days of the revolution. In court today, they denied the police had anything but tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, which they only used with the operational restriction of firing at the feet, not the chest or head.

At the last court session on Monday, none of the witnesses who gave evidence implicated Mubarak or his interior minister, Habib al-Adly, in the deaths during the revolution.

Earlier in the session, lawyers for families of the martyrs of the revolution filed requests to question the ousted president's wife, Suzanne Thabet, and the country's army chief.

The latest hearing was the fourth in the trial which opened 3 August. Unlike the first two sessions, the last two sessions were held behind closed doors and off-camera. Nevertheless, Egyptians continue to be glued to their TVs, watching news of their formerly untouchable president's trial, and following scenes caught by camera outside the courtroom. They were also allowed a glimpse of the 83-year-old former president being rolled in on a stretcher as he arrived earlier this morning outside the courtroom in an ambulance.

Mubarak, his two sons Alaa and Gamal, and El-Adly, as well as six of his top police officers, face charges of corruption and of killing unarmed and peaceful protesters during January 25 Revolution. The trial is being held in the Police Academy that once held Mubarak’s name in the New Cairo compound on the outskirts of the capital.

Unlike every other session to date, no clashes were reported today between pro and anti-Mubarak protesters. On Monday, tens were injured in fierce clashes that broke out around the courtroom between the two sides. Some 20 were also arrested.

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