CAIRO — Egypt’s ousted leader Hosni Mubarak was brought back to a Cairo courtroom on Wednesday for the resumption of his trial after a three-month break.
Mubarak has been charged with complicity in the deaths of nearly 840 protesters in the crackdown against a popular uprising, which forced him to step down on Feb. 11. He could face the death penalty if convicted but so far most of the testimonies, including from police officers, have distanced the former president from any orders to shoot at the protesters.
Egyptian TV showed footage of the 83-year-old Mubarak, covered by a green blanket and lying on a hospital gurney as he was brought from a helicopter and taken to an ambulance for a short ride to the courthouse Wednesday .
Mubarak has been under arrest in a hospital since April.
The trial started in August, with many in the country riveted by the sight of their ailing former ruler of nearly 30 years lying in a hospital bed inside the courtroom’s cage, where defendants traditionally sit during trials in Egypt.
During early sessions, the trial was bogged down by frequent commotion and arguments in the courtroom between the defense and the lawyers representing the protesters. It also became harder for media to cover the proceeding after the judge imposed a ban with high-ranking Egyptian officials summoned to testify.
In the last hearing in September, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads Egypt’s ruling military council that took power after Mubarak’s fall, gave his testimony under a total media blackout.
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.
Next in the 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.
Also on trial with Mubarak and facing the same charges are his former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and six senior former security officials. Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, also face corruption charges.
The prosecution’s case depends heavily on accounts of members of the former president’s inner circle including ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman, who was appointed vice president by Mubarak during the uprising.