CAIRO — Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is fit for trial, a senior judicial official said Thursday in an announcement that will necessitate the transfer of the ailing 83-year-old former leader from the resort town of Sharm el- Sheikh to Cairo.
Reports that Mubarak’s health was failing and that he was refusing to eat or drink had raised questions about whether he would actually be tried next month on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising that forced him from power last winter.
Deputy Justice Minister Mohammed Munie said that the “final decision” had been made and that the trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 3, will be held in the Cairo Convention Center, the state news agency MENA reported. Although an appeals judge must still issue an official ruling specifying the trial’s venue, it has been agreed to by representatives of the ruling military council, security officials and the industry and trade minister, who oversees the convention center.
If Mubarak’s trial begins next week, it could quell some of the anger of protesters who have been camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square since July 8 calling for quicker trials for Mubarak-era officials and trials for police officers involved in the killing of nearly 900 protesters.
Relations between protesters and the interim military leadership have soured since Mubarak’s resignation in February, and calls are now growing for the ouster of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, a longtime defense minister under Mubarak.
Many Egyptians have voiced doubts that Mubarak, a decorated former air force commander, would ever stand trial while the military leadership remains in control.
Last week, tension erupted in violence when protesters marching to the Defense Ministry were attacked by pro-military groups armed with Molotov cocktails and knives.
The former president is one of 11 defendants scheduled to go on trial Aug. 3 in proceedings to be broadcast on state TV. Defendants include Mubarak’s two sons, former interior minister Habib al-Adli and Adli’s deputies, all of whom are accused of graft and ordering the killing of protesters. Adli has already been convicted on separate corruption charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but he has yet to be tried over protesters’ deaths.
Also fueling doubts about the likelihood of a court appearance by Mubarak next week are questions concerning his physical condition. He is currently in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, and his attorney has been making the case that Mubarak’s health is deteriorating.
Health Minister Amr Hilmy said Thursday that Mubarak’s health was good enough for him to be transferred to Cairo for the trial, according to local newspapers. A medical official at the hospital, reached by phone, refused to comment on whether Mubarak was well enough to travel to the capital.