CAIRO: The trial of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, charged with the killing of protesters and abuse of power, resumed on Wednesday following a delay of almost two months while lawyers demanded a new judge.
Mubarak, his two sons, the former interior minister and senior police officers face a range of charges including involvement in the deaths of hundreds of protesters and corruption during his three decades in office.
Mubarak, who is being held under arrest in a hospital where doctors say he has a heart condition, was wheeled into the court on a hospital trolley covering his eyes with his arm and surrounded by police.
Previous sessions were marred by clashes outside the Cairo court building between Mubarak supporters and Egyptians demanding the death penalty for their former leader, but there were no scuffles as Mubarak arrived on Wednesday.
Around 850 people were killed in the 18-day uprising that overthrew Mubarak in February.
The trial has gripped the Arab world, ruled mostly by autocrats who seemed unassailable until this year when Mubarak and the leaders of Tunisia and Libya were toppled in popular revolts.
Lawyers representing families of those killed had filed a suit calling for presiding judge Ahmed Refaat and the two other judges to be replaced. The request was rejected.
They had complained that the judges had failed to give them adequate time to question Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the army council now ruling Egypt, during his court appearance.
Journalists were barred from the court and forbidden to report any leaked details of Tantawi’s testimony. Many believe Tantawi — who was Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades — can address key question of whether Mubarak ordered the use of lethal force against protesters. Tantawi later told reporters, as he allegedly told the court, that there were no orders given to him to shoot at protesters.
Next in line of witnesses whose testimony was demanded by both the prosecution and the defense is chief of staff Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Anan, the second-highest ranking official in the ruling military council.
As the proceedings started Wednesday, it was not clear whether Anan will be testifying.
Former Interior Minister Habib Al-Adly and six senior police officers are also standing trial. Businessman Hussein Salem, a close associate of Mubarak, is being tried in absentia.
Mubarak’s two sons Alaa and Gamal, defendants in the same case, arrived in court.
The judge was expected on Wednesday to take requests from lawyers and set dates for more testimony.
Outside the Police Academy, several pro-Mubarak supporters held banners of the former president, while families of the victims that died in protests carried pictures of their deceased relatives, an AFP correspondent said.
"The trial is a sham and the gang still rules," the families chanted.
Around 5,000 policemen were deployed to secure the trial at the academy in the outskirts of Cairo, in coordination with the army.