Egypt prosecution: Mubarak deserves death penalty

February 20, 2012 - 1:25 PM

CAIRO (AP) — The chief prosecutor in the trial of ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak said Monday in his closing remarks that the former president should be given the death penalty for the killings of protesters in last year's uprising.

Mustafa Suleiman said Mubarak, who ruled over the Arab world's most populous country for nearly 30 years, clearly authorized use of live ammunition and a shoot-to-kill policy against peaceful protesters.

According to government estimates, around 850 were killed in the crackdown from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11, 2011.

For this, Suleiman told the presiding judges, Mubarak and five co-defendants, including his longtime Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and four former top security officers, should receive the maximum sentence.

"This is not a case about the killing of one or ten or 20 civilians, but a case of an entire nation," he said.

Listening attentively to the closing remarks, the 83-year-old Mubarak sat upright in his hospital bed in the courtroom cage.

His son Gamal and one-time heir apparent was seen in the defendants cage whispering into his father's ear from time to time. His elder son Alaa held a copy of the Quran and paced around nervously in the defendants cage, wringing his hands throughout much of the prosecution's remarks. Both sons are facing corruption charges in the same trial.

Lawyers for the victims applauded when Suleiman said that Mubarak did not simply resign, but was ousted by the popular will.

He said that the historic case had entered its final stages and was "the concern of all Egyptians."

In previous remarks to the court, Suleiman said the decision to use live ammunition was taken on Jan. 27 last year, just before the military was called to the streets on the evening of the most violent day of the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11.

On Monday, Suleiman pointed to two of Mubarak's speeches during the unrest, in which the former president called on authorities to protect the people. The chief prosecutor said this was further proof that protesters were under attack.

The defense team of the former president is expected to present its closing arguments on Wednesday, the same day that the presiding judge will announce a date for the verdict. It will also be the first time that the defendants are allowed to speak in response to the charges since they pleaded not guilty.

The landmark trial of Mubarak, his two sons and eight other defendants has been bogged down by lengthy delays, muddled testimonies and complicated procedural issues. Suleiman blamed perceived delays in the trial on the lawyers of the victims, who had unsuccessfully requested new judges to preside over the case.

Many in Egypt worry that the generals who took power after Mubarak — and who owed their positions to him — have no interest in convicting him. The country's military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and several other members of the country's top leadership previously testified in a closed-door session in the trial.

Suleiman defended the investigation conducted by the state prosecutor's office, saying that it had to launch its own probe after security authorities ignored the prosecution's requests for help in the inquiry. Prosecutors said they interviewed hundreds of witnesses, physicians and police officers to build their case.

Judge Ahmed Rifaat, overseeing the case, praised the prosecution for how it handled the investigation, despite attempts to "tinker with it."

"The important responsibility on the court can only be appreciated by great men," Rifaat said. "The only thing we look to is God and the documents of this case."

In separate charges of corruption in the same trial, Mubarak and three co-defendants, including his two sons, are accused of involvement in the sale of gas to Israel below market price.

Nearly 50 stalwarts of the Mubarak regime, including two former prime ministers and several key cabinet ministers and regime-linked businessmen, are currently held in a prison south of Cairo. Some of them have been convicted and are serving jail terms, while others are awaiting trial.