CAIRO — An Egyptian judge on Wednesday announced June 2 as the date for the verdict in the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak, setting a lengthy deliberation period in an apparent attempt to avoid disrupting a presidential election expected in May.
The former president is charged with complicity in the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising that forced his ouster a year ago.
Political activists have accused Egypt’s top generals, who assumed power on Feb. 11 last year, of not doing enough to bring former government members to account for their crimes. So far, only one police officer has been convicted — in absentia — of killing protesters; others have been acquitted. Many activists say they worry that the case against Mubarak is not strong enough to assure his conviction.
“We thought we would hear a verdict by April, and it stirs some fears,” said Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer representing families of slain protesters.
Eid criticized the prosecution for presenting a weak case and said the judges presiding over the case needed the long period of deliberation to make such a historic decision. If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty.
If he is found not guilty, Eid said, “it could become the second round of the revolution, the more violent round.”
Mubarak, his two sons and a close associate are also charged with graft in a separate case.
On Wednesday, Mubarak, his security chief, Habib el-Adli, and six of Adli’s deputies were given the opportunity to address the court for the first time. Mubarak declined, saying his attorneys had defended him adequately, state media reported. Mubarak pleaded not guilty when the trial began Aug. 3.
Adli, however, spoke for nearly two hours, blaming “foreigners” and “infiltrators” for the killings of the nearly 1,000 protesters who died last year. He accused the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas of sowing chaos in Egypt and destroying the country’s revolution.
Adli also said that his record as interior minister showed he was a man who rehabilitated “terrorists.” Under his tenure, he said from behind the iron bars of the prosecution cage, general security improved, the crime rate dropped and the police force he oversaw acted cautiously, having been instructed not to fire at protesters, according to state media reports.
The revolt last year was set off in part after pictures of a young man named Khaled Said were leaked online. The 28-year-old was beaten beyond recognition by police officers. Many Egyptians express loathing for the police force, saying officers act with impunity.
“The security curriculum that I follow depended on patience . . . not killing and blood, despite the critical conditions Egypt has been through,” Adli said, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency. “Police forces abided by internationally recognized methods of handling peaceful protests.”
Mubarak’s defense lawyers appeared confident Wednesday that the former president would be acquitted on the charge of killing protesters.
“The evidence is conclusive and clearly points toward acquittal,” said Yousry Abdelrazak, a volunteer lawyer on Mubarak’s defense team.