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Mon 1 Aug 2011 12:00 PM

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Egyptian judge outlines plans for Mubarak's trial

Up to 600 people to attend televised trial of ex-president, Mubarak’s health in question

Egyptian judge outlines plans for Mubarak's trial
President Hosni Mubarak was ousted after three decades of rule over Egypt

The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be
held at a police academy in Cairo, with a maximum of 600 people allowed to
attend although proceedings will be televised, the presiding judge said on
Sunday.

A source close to Mubarak, who has been in hospital since
April when he was first questioned, said on Thursday the former president's
lawyer would tell the court he was too sick to attend the trial due to start on
Wednesday.

A cabinet statement said the public prosecutor sent a letter
to Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy calling for Mubarak to be present. An
official at Mubarak's hospital said his health was "relatively
stable" but his psychological state was worsening.

If he is absent due to sickness, that could further anger
protesters who want a public trial.

Many Egyptians see Mubarak's illness and detention in a
hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as a ploy for the army rulers
to avoid publicly humiliating their former commander. He has so far been spared
transfer to a Cairo prison where his two sons and other officials are held
awaiting trial.

"In God's words, if you are to judge people, you must
do so with justice," judge Ahmed Refaat, who is presiding over Mubarak's
case, told a news conference. The briefing was delayed due to a crush of
journalists wanting to hear about the case.

Mubarak is charged with a range of offences, the most
serious of which is conspiring over the killing of protesters during the
uprising which led to his overthrow in February. If convicted, he could face
the death penalty.

Protesters and ordinary Egyptians accuse Mubarak, who ruled
for 30 years, of leading a corrupt system that routinely tortured people in
detention and crushed opponents. They blame him for killing about 850 people in
the uprising.

Mubarak will stand trial with his sons Gamal -- who was once
viewed as a possible successor -- and Alaa, along with former Interior Minister
Habib al-Adli, a business executive and confidant Hussein Salem, and six other
police officials.

Alongside court officials and lawyers, those allowed to
attend the trial include close relations of the accused and accredited
journalists, Refaat said. Only the Egyptian state broadcaster would be allowed
to set up television cameras.

Some members of the public will be allowed to register
beforehand to attend. Family members of victims of the uprising and activists
had crowded in to hear previous court hearings for the former interior minister
and other senior officials.

"The court is fully convinced of the Egyptian people's
right to follow what happens in the courtroom in terms of legal
procedures," Refaat said.

Egyptian trials were not traditionally broadcast, but
high-profile cases since the uprising that ousted Mubarak on Feb. 11 are now
televised after protesters demanded more transparency.

After the initial chaos at the news conference, Refaat asked
that "the honourable attendees" allow "justice and the law be
thoroughly followed and [allow] the court and defence team the ability to
complete their duties."

Mubarak's health was an increasingly frequent subject of
rumour as he aged in office, and now as he awaits trial.

The official state news agency quoted an official at his
hospital as saying Mubarak's X-rays and tests were "satisfactory, for
someone of his age". He also said the "mental state of the former
president continued to deteriorate" although his state of health was
"relatively stable".

The police academy on the outskirts of Cairo where he will
be tried was originally named after Mubarak, but his name in big concrete
letters was torn down after the uprising.

Refaat also said the court had a right to convene at dates
that had not been previously scheduled, suggesting the court would have greater
freedom than normally permitted to proceed with the case and associated
hearings.

Another judge, Refaat al-Sayyed, who is not involved in the
case, told state television this could mean that sessions are held daily on
working days to ensure a swift resolution of "the historic case all
Egyptians are watching."

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