|More than 5,000 police personnel have been deployed to maintain security outside the courtroom in Cairo [AFP]|
The prosecution in the Hosni Mubarak trial has said that Egypt’s ousted president, his security chief and six top police officers were the “actual instigators” of the killing of more than 800 protesters during last year’s popular uprising.
Mubarak and his seven co-defendants were in court Wednesday to face charges of complicity in the killings and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Chief prosecutor Mustafa Suleiman said the defendants clearly authorised the use of live ammunition and a shoot-to-kill policy against peaceful protesters.
He also complained that the prosecution had to launch its own probe after security authorities ignored the prosecution’s requests for help in the inquiry.
Prosecutors interviewed hundreds of witnesses, physicians and police officers to build its case.
The Mubarak trial brings out conflicting visions. Reformers and the victims’ families clamor for a full measure of justice, while many others want the turbulence to end so that Egypt’s battered economy can move toward stability.
Suleiman said the decision to use live ammunition was taken on January 27 last year, just before the most violent day of the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on February 11.
Dubbed the “Friday of Rage,” January 28 also saw the deployment of army troops in Cairo and across much of the nation, as well as the yet to be explained disappearance of security forces.
The objective, he said, was to kill enough protesters to force the rest to disperse.
Another prosecutor, Mustafa Khater, told the court that special police forces armed with automatic rifles targeted the heads, chests and eyes of protesters. The prosecution also showed video of the violence taken by TV stations.
They showed police officers loading up their weapons with live ammunition and police and fire engine trucks chasing protesters and running them over.
One video showed a police officer perched on top of a police car and killing a protester with a gunshot to the head.
“The defendants before you in the cage are the actual instigators and are the ones who gave police officers the order to shoot,” Suleiman said.
He also said that the prosecution has evidence that the regime used “thugs” against the protesters.
“The protesters were peaceful, and it was the police that started firing on them,” he said.
Suleiman said the interior minister and the country’s intelligence agency ignored or provided little data in response to the prosecution’s requests for information on the circumstances surrounding the killings.
He said widespread disarray in the state at the time of the probe, around mid-February, or the wish to protect their own may have been behind the lack of co-operation.
Khater told the court that Interior Ministry officials used thugs and hardened criminals to provoke the protesters into violence. The thugs, he said, pelted protesters with rocks, prompting them to act in self defense and appear not to be peaceful.
The hearings will resume on Thursday for the third and final day of the prosecution’s opening statement.