Egypt: Ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak appears in court on hospital bed to deny charges
EGYPT'S former president, Hosni Mubarak, lay on a hospital bed in a Cairo courtroom today as his historic trial began on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising which ousted him.
The scene, shown live on Egypt's state TV, was Egyptians' first look at the 83-year-old since February 10, the day before his fall when he gave a defiant speech refusing to resign.
The former leader denied all charges against him.
When the judge asked him to identify himself and enter a plea, Mubarak answered: "Yes, I am here.
"I deny all these accusations completely."
Inside a cage of mesh and iron bars, an ashen-looking Mubarak craned his head up to see the proceedings, a sheet drawn up to his chest.
His two sons, Gamal and Alaa, who are on trial with him, stood next to his bed, leaning over to talk with him. The elder Mubarak and his nine co-defendants, also including his former interior minister, all wore white prison uniforms.
Outside the Cairo police academy where the trial was being held, hundreds of his opponents and angry supporters scuffled.
In chaotic scenes, hundreds of policemen in gleaming white uniforms and riot police with shields and helmets separated demonstrators hurling stones and bottles at each other.
It was a sign of the profound emotions stirred by the unprecedented prosecution of the man who ruled Egypt with unquestioned power for 29 years until he was toppled in February by an 18-day uprising.
For many Egyptians, the trial is a chance of retribution for decades of oppressive rule in which opponents were tortured, corruption was rife, poverty spread and political life was stifled. But for others, he was a symbol of stability.
The courtroom itself is divided. Relatives of the defendants sat in rows of seats near the cage. A fence running through the middle of the chamber divided them from the rest of the audience of around 300 people, including a few relatives of of protesters killed in the uprising, far enough away that they cannot shout or throw anything at the former leader.
Security was extremely heavy outside the courtroom, set up in a lecture hall at what was once named the Mubarak Police Academy in the capital.
Early this morning, some 50 of Mubarak's supporters gathered outside, chanting slogans and holding portraits of the former leader.
"We will demolish and burn the prison if they convict Mubarak," they screamed at hundreds of police and army troops backed by armoured personnel carriers.
The pro-Mubarak protesters threw stones toward a giant screen set up outside the police academy, though a police cordon kept them a distance away.
Anti-Mubarak protesters held up shoes at the screen in a sign of contempt for the ousted president.
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