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Mubarak Returns To Cairo Courtroom For Trial


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Egypt's ousted president was back in court in Cairo, although just for today. The judge has postponed the trial until early September. Hosni Mubarak is on trial for numerous counts of corruption and for ordering the killing of hundreds of protesters earlier this year. He was again wheeled into the courtroom in a hospital bed.

Mubarak was accompanied by his two sons who also face corruption charges. All three were placed in a prisoner's cage. And also like the first day of the trial, the chief judge struggled to maintain control.

NPR's Mike Shuster joined us from Cairo. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So this morning we found out that the judge has postponed the trial to September and has made a decision to stop televising the proceedings. What's that all about?

SHUSTER: Well, the postponement is not unusual. This was the second day of the Mubarak trial, but the first day of the trial 12 days ago. There's a lot of evidence in this case. There are a lot of lawyers representing not only Mubarak and the criminal charges, but representing the relatives of victims of the demonstrations back in January and February who are now bringing claims against Mubarak. So there's a lot of evidence and lawyers need a lot of time to go through it.

What the big bombshell was, is that at the very end of the session today, the chief judge issued a ruling that live televising of the trial would stop. And I think that's the thing that's going to have a much bigger impact here because everybody in Egypt was watching this trial. I mean, this trial was seen all over the world two weeks ago and there was a sense here in Egypt that people felt that there was more openness and more transparency about Mubarak and what will happen in his trial. And now, apparently, that's been shut down. I wouldn't be surprised if there are lot of protests.

MONTAGNE: Tell us more about what did happen in the courtroom. For instance, did Mubarak have anything to say?

SHUSTER: No. Mubarak only uttered one word. When the judge came in at the beginning of the session today he asked if the defendant Mubarak was present, and of course the defendant Mubarak was present. He was lying in a hospital bed inside the prisoner's cage, and he said: present. That's all he had to say.

Then most of the time was taken up with lawyers, making demands of the chief judge. And then the chief judge recessed the court for a couple of hours and came back with the decisions that we've already talked about.

MONTAGNE: So it sounds like nothing that we would recognize as a trial has actually begun.

SHUSTER: No. We would this more as a pretrial hearing, dealing with sharing evidence, giving lawyers time to go through that evidence. There are so many lawyers for the relatives of the victims of the demonstrations and they want so much. There's even talk of more than a thousand witnesses testifying in the trial. So that's what dominated the action in the courtroom today.

MONTAGNE: And what about the action outside of the courthouse? I mean on the very first day of the trial there were clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators.

SHUSTER: And there were more of them today. In fact, I think it's fair to say that they were far more serious today than they were on the first day of the trial. And they erupted before the session began, but then when Mubarak was brought into the cage - there's a big screen outside the courthouse and there were many pro-Mubarak demonstrators and they started throwing rocks when they saw him moved into the prisoner's cage. And despite the presence of several thousand riot police at the courthouse, they had a real hard time stopping the rock throwing and it lasted for more than an hour.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Shuster is speaking to us from Cairo. Thanks, Mike.

SHUSTER: You're welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.