CAIRO - Egypt’s ailing ex-president Hosni Mubarak was back in court Saturday on charges of complicity in the deaths of protesters in 2011, with former officials to be questioned over his alleged role.
The 85-year-old former strongman, wearing his trademark sunglasses, was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair for the hearing from a military hospital where he is being detained. It was the seventh hearing in the retrial of Mubarak and his security commanders over the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising that overthrew him.
Mubarak was placed under house arrest last month after his lawyer successfully argued that his detention had gone on too long. Although a technicality, the decision to release him was fraught with symbolism, coming after the ouster and detention of his Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi.
Interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi ordered Mubarak to be detained immediately after his release. A court had convicted and sentenced him to life in prison in June last year for complicity in the deaths of protesters, but a retrial was ordered in January after he appealed.
Lawyers for Mubarak, his interior minister and six security commanders now argue that much of the killing during the uprising was carried out by Islamists linked to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
They demanded the testimony of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who overthrew Morsi and who had served as Mubarak’s military intelligence chief.
The court on Saturday summoned a former head of General Intelligence Services, Murad Muwafi, army general Hassan al-Ruwaini and two other former security commanders.
They will testify in camera for “national security” reasons, the court said.
Meanwhile, Egypt's interior ministry on Saturday issued a new warning to Islamist protesters, pledging to crack down if demonstrators block roads or obstruct traffic. The ministry statement came a day after thousands of protesters rallied in Cairo against the military's July 3 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
It accused the protesters of committing "many crimes" such as blocking traffic and "kidnapping journalists and confiscating their equipment".
"The ministry affirms that it will confront with utmost decisiveness practices such as blocking roads or obstructing traffic or threatening the security of citizens," the statement said.
Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested in a police crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement since August 14, when police forcibly dispersed two protest camps.
The Islamists have continued to call weekly rallies, insisting that they are committed to peaceful protest.
On Saturday, roughly 200 protesters in Cairo marched near the Rabaa al-Adawiya square which was the site of the main protest camp dispersed a month ago.
Hundreds were killed in the operation to clear the camp and another Cairo sit-in, in what Human Rights Watch described as "most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history".
The government defended the operation, saying it was measured and that police acted with self-restraint after coming under fire from protesters.