Egypt’s Mubarak to go on trial in August

June 1, 2011

Facing growing pressure to prosecute former president Hosni Mubarak promptly, Egyptian officials announced Wednesday that he will go on trial Aug. 3 on suspicion of conspiring in the fatal shooting of protesters.

The setting of a trial date suggests that the country’s interim military rulers want to show an increasingly restless public that they are making good on promised reforms.

Some people reacted to the news with skepticism, pointing to stalled cases of other prominent officials charged after the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak from office in February.

“It’s not going to happen,” activist Aida Seif el-Dawla said. “The military is an extension of the Mubarak regime.”

She said she thought it was odd that the date would coincide with the beginning of Ramadan, a period of religious observance and daytime fasting in the Muslim world during which little business is conducted.

Mubarak, 83, who has been detained at a hospital in the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh since early April, was charged last month with playing a role in the fatal shooting of demonstrators who took to the streets in late January clamoring for democratic reforms.

The deposed leader could be sentenced to death if convicted in that case.

He and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, have also been charged in a separate case involving alleged illicit enrichment.

An attorney for the former president told CNN this week that Mubarak denies having ordered the shooting of protesters. Farid el-Deeb told the network that Mubarak is being treated for a heart condition and a recurrence of colon cancer.

Many Egyptians have noted that a president who long treated his health as a state secret now seems eager to disclose his ailments, possibly in an effort to avoid serving time in prison.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the United States wants to see “due process and procedures” in the trial of the deposed leader, noting that it will be “highly charged.”

Clinton also said she was worried about reports of a crackdown on bloggers and journalists who have described being threatened and intimidated after speaking critically of the military.

“We don’t think this is in keeping with the direction that the Egyptian people were heading when they started out in Tahrir Square,” she said, referring to the downtown Cairo area that became the nexus of anti-Mubarak demonstrations.

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