Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lies on a stretcher while being transported to the courtroom [Reuters]

Lawyers for Hosni Mubarak have said the military was responsible for the deaths of protesters during the revolt that toppled the former Egyptian president last year.

Defence lawyer Farid al-Deeb said on Wednesday that Mubarak had imposed a curfew on January 28, handing responsibility for security to the army.

Mubarak, his two sons, his former interior minister and seven other officials are on trial on charges of corruption and over the unlawful killing of protesters.

But Deeb said army leaders were to blame for the hundreds of deaths during the curfew.

"Mubarak used his constitutional power and issued an order imposing a curfew across Egypt and put the army in charge of security from 4:00pm, January 28," Deeb told the court.

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"Therefore, it does not make sense that police ordered the killing of protesters. The police did not have the jurisdiction or authority to issue any orders since the authority had been transferred to the head of the army."

Activists and families of the victims say that it was police and other elements of the interior ministry who caused the deaths.

But Deeb said that once the armed forces were placed in control of security, police would have been under the jurisdiction of the head of the army.

Deeb said Mubarak took the decision to hand over security to the army after he was informed by Habib al-Adly, his former interior minister also on trial, that police in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the cradle of the uprising - were being attacked by protesters.

Adly phoned Mubarak and told him "Help me, I can't see a solution", Deeb said.

"Thus, any killing or injury took place either on orders from the military commander ... or was the result of an individual decision taken by officers and soldiers," added Deeb.

'We are revolutionaries'

But the lawyer went on to argue that army and officers "have clearly said, and there is no question about it, that [the army] did not open fire and I believe the army because it doesn't lie.

"The army's duty is to protect people and property ... so the question is who killed and caused the injuries ... This is the main point of the case."

Deeb also caused an uproar in court when he described the protesters who forced Mubarak to quit as "troublemakers", triggering the ire of a lawyer representing families of the victims.

"We are revolutionaries, not troublemakers," the lawyer shouted in an address to the president of the court who threatened to throw him out if he interrupted the defence again.

Mubarak is the first Arab head of state to stand trial in person amid a wave of popular uprisings across the Middle East. Prosecutors have called for him to face the death penalty if convicted. The case continues on Thursday.

Source: Agencies