The first day of the ousted president’s trial transfixed Egyptians across the country as they watched a man who had once commanded respect and fear lying on a hospital gurney inside a metal cage installed in a makeshift courtroom. It was also a moment that exposed the deep divisions among Egyptians on whether to try the autocrat of almost 30 years, who also faces graft charges, and publicly chastise him.
After the pleas were entered and the lawyers made their requests of the judges, the trial was adjourned.
On Wednesday morning, nearly six months after he was forced from power, Mubarak pleaded not guilty in a tremulous voice.
“All of these charges I completely deny,” he said after the list was read.
His two sons, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, hovered over him, blocking the view of their father from television cameras and the court. Gamal Mubarak twice kissed his father and frequently leaned in to confer with him as his brother stood erect, holding the Koran in his hand.
Hosni Mubarak is being tried alongside his sons, who are charged with corruption. They also denied culpability. Former interior minister Habib al-Adli is also being tried on allegations that he ordered the killing of protesters, as are his deputies. Adli and Mubarak could be sentenced to death if convicted in the slaying of demonstrators.
In adjourning the Mubaraks’ trial until Aug. 15, Ahmed Refaat, the judge, said he needed time to review the motions filed by the defense and attorneys for relatives of slain protesters.
The judge said the elder Mubarak would be held at a nearby hospital until his trial resumes. Adli is due to return to court Thursday.
Mubarak’s attorney, Farid el-Deeb, said Tantawi took charge of security operations Jan. 28. That was the day Egyptian authorities deployed the army on the streets of Cairo to control swelling protests that had overwhelmed riot police squads. Unarmed protesters were shot and beaten by security forces. Nearly 900 people were killed during the uprising.
Deeb made it clear that the defense team intended to make the trial a protracted and grueling affair, with plans to call 1,631 witnesses. He also called for a reevaluation of Hosni Mubarak’s health.
Deeb’s effort to shift responsibility for the crackdown to the army — and away from Mubarak — could force the interim military rulers to reassess the ex-president’s trial if it appeared likely to implicate them in government abuses.
Tensions have been escalating between the interim leaders and elements of the public. Many Egyptians accuse the generals of failing to purge the government of Mubarak loyalists and have denounced the ongoing trials of civilians in military tribunals. The rulers have also, at times, used force to break up demonstrations — most recently in Tahrir Square on Monday, when more than 100 people were arrested.