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Egypt's Mubarak to stand trial for murder of protesters

If convicted, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could face the death penalty. Protesters are heartened by the trial, and vow to keep pressing their other demands.

By Hannah AllamMcClatchy Newspapers / May 25, 2011

In this Sept. 1, 2010 file photo, Egypt's then President Hosni Mubarak listens as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu, unseen, speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Mubarak will stand trial on charges related to the shooting deaths of protesters during the country's 18-day revolt, Egypt's prosecutor-general said Tuesday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Cairo

Deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial on charges related to the shooting deaths of protesters during the country's 18-day revolt, Egypt's prosecutor-general announced yesterday. The charges could carry the death penalty.

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Mubarak, his sons, Gamal and Alaa, and a close business associate, Hussein Salem, also will face charges that they abused their power to amass wealth, the prosecutor-general said.

The charges were announced just days before thousands of demonstrators were expected to rally in downtown Cairo to demand, among other things, tougher action against the Mubaraks, and some activists said the announcement was intended to quash momentum for the protest, which organizers had hoped would draw as many as a million participants.

State media reported that Mubarak remains hospitalized; his two sons are among a slew of former regime officials who await prosecution in a notorious Cairo prison.

No dates were announced for the trials, which will be before a civilian criminal court.

The prosecutor-general also offered no details of the specifics of the case against Mubarak in the shootings. The Associated Press quoted a spokesman for the prosecutor, Adel el Said, as saying that Mubarak and "some police chiefs" face charges in the killings.

A key demand met, protesters keep up pressure on other demands

Whether the announcement of the criminal charges would dampen enthusiasm for Friday's protest was uncertain. In addition to prosecution of the Mubaraks, activists want an end to the country's decades-old emergency law, the dissolution of municipal councils, and the creation of an advisory panel to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The council, which has run Egypt since Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11, has been accused of improperly prosecuting protesters in military courts.

Refaat Ahmad, a co-founder of a community development nonprofit group, said he still planned to attend the rally.

"The more we pressure, the more they offer scapegoats and put more corrupt figures to trial," Ahmad said, referring to the ruling generals. "The more we pressure them, the more demands they try to fulfill, so we'll keep following that tactic."

A push for speedy justice

Activists have complained of a slow pace of prosecutions against the Mubaraks and former regime officials, especially as civilian protesters have received prison terms after speedy military trials.

Federal prosecutors have countered that building such a historic case takes time, with such obstacles as tracking down bank accounts all over the world. In what seems to be another gesture to quell the anger over the court process, the government released all but a handful of activists who were detained from recent protests in Tahrir Square and outside the Israeli Embassy.

Activists said that speedy, transparent trials of former regime officials would do wonders for restoring public faith in the judicial branch, which had exercised virtually no independence under Mubarak. So far, the only conviction of a major regime figure has come in the case of the widely detested former interior minister, Habib el Adly, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption.

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