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25 February 2024

Lawyers blame police, Mubarak for Egypt deaths


Lawyers for victims' families in the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak charged that Egyptian police were ordered to use lethal fire against protesters in the revolt which brought him down.

The ailing, 83-year-old Mubarak lay on a stretcher in the defendants' cage at the trial in which the prosecution has called for him to be hanged for the killing of hundreds of demonstrators in the January-February 2011 revolt.

Sameh Ashour, lead counsel for victims' families in the Cairo trial, submitted official documents which he said showed that 160 police officers had been armed with automatic weapons and 4,800 live rounds.

The lawyer also showed a report from the Central Security Forces that four units, each made up of 50 policemen, had been supplied with automatic weapons and ammunition.

A speech by Mubarak on January 28, three days after the outbreak of the unrest, amounted to "implicit recognition of the use of force against demonstrators," according to Ashour.

Mubarak said he had given instructions for police "to protect the demonstrations... before they turn into riots."

Lawyers for civil plaintiffs have until Tuesday to present their case before the defence takes its turn, after the prosecution last week urged the court to sentence the fallen strongman to hang.

"The law punishes premeditated murder with execution. The prosecution demands the maximum punishment," Mustafa Khater told the presiding judge, Ahmed Refaat.

Mubarak, detained in a military hospital where he is being treated for a heart condition, is on trial along with seven former security chiefs. The defence is to argue their innocence.

Chief prosecutor Mustafa Suleiman told the court that Mubarak must have ordered police to open fire on protesters during the 18-day uprising that ended his three-decade rule on February 11, leaving more than 850 dead.

Essam el Batawy, a defence lawyer, told AFP the prosecution's closing arguments were based, in part, on statements from witnesses they had questioned during their investigation who had not taken the stand.

"They used partial quotes from their testimony," he said. "We will insist on listening to these witnesses in court," saying they will be called to testify.

Mubarak went to trial on August 3, after protesters stepped up demonstrations calling on the ruling military to try him and other former regime officials.

None of the police witnesses summoned by the prosecution has directly implicated Mubarak.

The country's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defence minister for two decades, testified behind closed doors, but lawyers said he did not incriminate the ousted leader.