A supporter of Hosni Mubarak holds up his picture on the first day of his trial. Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began Wednesday as pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters rallied outside the temporary courtroom — a sign of the country’s overall divided view of the trial, according to some analysts.
Mubarak pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzling funds and ordering the killing of protesters before he stepped down in February. The maximum punishment is the death penalty.
He is being tried along with his sons, Alaa and Gamal, former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and other officials. A temporary courtroom for the trial was set up in a police academy in the outskirts of Cairo.
“It’s a historic moment that nobody thought would really happen,” said Graeme Bannerman, a scholar with the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
Demonstrators in Cairo draped banners of Mubarak under a noose beneath large screens displaying the televised trial, while Mubarak backers who also congregated at the scene shouted words of support.
For the revolutionaries, this is a moment of truth and justification, and the process will go forward, said Bannerman.
“This is the dream of Egyptians, to see him like this, humiliated like he humiliated them for the last 30 years,” Ghada Ali, the mother of a 17-year-old girl who was shot to death during protests earlier in the year, told the Associated Press.
But for other people who supported of Mubarak and still thought of him as their leader for many years, there is a sense of sadness, Bannerman said.
Mubarak, who appeared in the courtroom lying on a hospital bed, refused to eat several weeks before the trial and is suffering from a long-term illness that had been an inhibiting factor during the last years of his governance, said Bannerman. In June, Mubarak’s lawyer confirmed he had cancer.
After adjourning the trial, the judge ordered Mubarak held at a military hospital near Cairo and to be overseen by an oncologist.
The televised image of Mubarak’s weakened state conjured sympathy in some. “I am sad, really sad. I never imagined to see my president lie on a bed like this. After all he is an old man, there should be mercy,” said Khaled Hassan, 41, a plumber, reported Reuters.
“I think it’s both a happy day and a sad day for many Egyptians,” Bannerman noted. “I would not want to be the judge in this trial, because there’s no way you’re going to get a verdict that makes [everyone] happy.”
Later Wednesday, the judge adjourned Mubarak and his sons’ trial until Aug. 15, and ordered hearings in el-Adly’s case to resume on Thursday, according to the AP.
Lower photo by Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images