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29 February 2024

Not Mubarak, Egypt army responsible for killings: lawyers


Lawyers for Hosni Mubarak said on Wednesday the military was responsible for the deaths of protesters during the revolt that ousted the Egyptian president last year, insisting he had done nothing wrong.

The prosecution wants Mubarak to hang for the killing of hundreds of protesters in the 18-day revolt that forced him to quit on February 11 and hand over power to the army.

On the second day of arguing his case, defence Farid al-Deeb said Mubarak, his interior minister Habib al-Adly and six top officers are not responsible for the bloodshed that started January 28, three days after the revolt began.

Several protesters were killed in three days of unrest that preceded the full-blown revolt on January 28 and dozens injured, according to figures released at the time.

Deeb said the reasoning behind his argument was based on the fact that Mubarak imposed a curfew on the afternoon of the 28th which, by law, made the army responsible for security.

"Mubarak used his constitutional power and issued an order imposing a curfew across Egypt and put the army in charge of security from 4:00 pm, January 28," Deeb told the court.

Deeb said the killing and wounding of protesters began after 4:00 pm on that day, which places the responsibility of the bloodshed squarely on the shoulders of the armed forces.

"Therefore, it does not make sense that police ordered the killing of protesters. The police did not have the jurisdiction or authority to issue any orders since the authority had been transferred to the head of the army."

Whatever the authority, it was police and other elements of the interior ministry who caused the deaths of the more than 800 people who died and the injuries of the others, activists and lawyers for families of the victims say.

Mubarak took the decision based on Law 183 of 1952, which stipulates that once the armed forces are in control of security, police are under their jurisdiction and the head of the army is in charge.

Deeb said Mubarak took that decision after he was informed by Adly that police in Cairo's Tahrir Square -- the cradle of the uprising -- were being attacked by protesters.

Adly phoned Mubarak and told him "help me, I can't see a solution," Deeb said.

"Thus, any killing or injury took place either on orders from the military commander ... or was the result of an individual decision taken by officers and soldiers," added Deeb.

But the lawyer went on to argue that army and officers "have clearly said, and there is no question about it, that they (army) did not open fire and I believe the army because it doesn't lie.

"The army's duty is to protect people and property ... so the question is who killed and caused the injuries" of protesters? "This is the main point of the case."

Deeb went on to cite an article published in February by government newspaper Al-Akhbar that there was "a foreign conspiracy to strike Egypt."

He also caused an uproar in court when he described protesters who forced Mubarak to quit as "troublemakers," triggering the ire of a lawyer representing families of the victims.

"We are revolutionaries, not troublemakers," the lawyer shouted in an address to the president of the court who threatened to throw him out if he interrupted the defence again.

The defence is due to continue its case on Thursday.