First witnesses in court for Mubarak trial

CAIRO Sun Sep 4, 2011 6:22pm EDT

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is seen in the courtroom during his trial at the police academy in Cairo in this still image taken from video, August 15, 2011. REUTERS/Egypt TV via Reuters TV

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is seen in the courtroom during his trial at the police academy in Cairo in this still image taken from video, August 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Egypt TV via Reuters TV

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A top police official and three other officers will testify on Monday in the trial of Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the first witnesses to take the stand in a case that has gripped Egypt and the Arab world.

Egyptians were stunned by television images of their 83-year-old former president of 30 years being wheeled into a cage in court lying on a hospital bed in the first two sessions. By order of the judge, no more sessions will be televised.

One reason Judge Ahmed Refaat gave for banning live cameras was to protect the testimony of witnesses. Lawyers, who applauded the decision, said it was to prevent witnesses being influenced by each other or the public.

Mubarak is the first Arab leader to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the Middle East this year.

"We are expecting to hear the testimony of four witnesses that the prosecution has asked for to prove the charges against Mubarak and the others," said Gamal Eid, a lawyer representing 16 of the roughly 850 people killed in the uprising.

Mubarak is charged with involvement in the killing of the protesters.

Eid said one of the witnesses is a top police officer, General Hussein Saeed Mohamed Mursi, who worked in the operations room of the police force during the uprising.

"(Mursi) had been accused in a decision issued by the general prosecutor of deleting those recordings but he later turned into a witness," Eid said.

The three other witnesses called by the court are also police officers who were in the operations room during the 18 days of protests. The court named them as Emad Badr Saeed, Bassim Mohamed el-Otaify and Mahmoud Galal Abdel Hamid.

Mubarak is standing trial with his two sons Gamal, once viewed as being groomed for top office, and Alaa, as well as former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six senior police officers.

Ten Kuwaiti lawyers are expected to join the defense team for Mubarak on Monday. Some of the lawyers said their role comes as a gesture of gratitude to Mubarak for his support for a U.S.-led coalition that expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

A press conference held by the Kuwaiti lawyers on Sunday descended into chaos when pro-Mubarak supporters attacked a journalist, scratching his arms and beating him after he asked why the Kuwaitis were defending the ousted president.

During the two earlier court sessions, the first held on August 3, supporters and opponents of Mubarak gathered outside the police academy building in a Cairo suburb where the trial is being held. Some fought and threw stones at each other.

Mubarak was flown to the court by helicopter for the two previous sessions. He is now at a hospital on the outskirts of Cairo.

(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed and Amena Bakr; Editing by Edmund Blair and Peter Graff)

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