Middle East

Hosni Mubarak trial: Judge halts live TV coverage

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Media captionThe BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says there is a desire in Egypt to see that nobody is "above the law"

The judge at the trial of the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has adjourned it for three weeks and said hearings will no longer be televised.

The trial will now be merged with that of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who is also accused of ordering the killing of protesters.

Mr Mubarak once again appeared in court on a hospital bed, alongside his two sons, who are charged with corruption.

At least 20 people were injured in clashes between rival groups outside.

Mr Mubarak resigned on 11 February after 18 days of mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, during which some 850 people were killed.

Tantawi demand

The 83-year-old former leader was brought to the Cairo police academy, that used to bear his name, in a military helicopter and then wheeled into the barred dock on a hospital bed. He was wearing a blue tracksuit.

His sons Alaa and Gamal stood next to him, dressed in white prison uniforms. They tried to shield him from the TV cameras.

Proceedings began with presiding Judge Ahmed Rifaat again struggling to maintain order, referring to the fact that there were more than 100 lawyers. He asked them to take their seats and show some respect.

After a recess, the judge ordered the merger of the Mubaraks' trial with that of Adly, announced that live TV coverage would end "in the interest of the public", and adjourned the case to 5 September.

Observers said the decision to halt live TV should make the work of the court easier, although opponents of Mr Mubarak outside appeared angry.

One of them, Sherif Mohamed, told the Reuters news agency: "Preposterous! The case is necessary for public opinion. Not airing it live means there is a deal with Mubarak."

But a lawyer representing some a number of families of dead protesters disagreed, telling the Associated Press: "This decision pleases most of the lawyers who are really working on the case, not those who want the TV appearance. This will give us the right to some calm and concentration and turn it again into a legal case, not a show."

Adly, who has already been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money-laundering, had reappeared in the Cairo court on Sunday on charges of killing hundreds of demonstrators during the uprising.

Lawyers for the families of protesters killed in the uprising had demanded the merging of the trials and applauded the ruling.

After the session was adjourned, Mr Mubarak's sons waved to supporters in the courtroom before exiting the dock, pushing their father's bed.

Hundreds of riot police were once again on guard outside the courtroom on Monday.

A number of Mubarak supporters had gathered, some chanting: "He is Egyptian until death" and "Hosni Mubarak is not Saddam".

Scuffles broke out at regular intervals with anti-Mubarak protesters, some of whom brandished hangman's nooses and demanded his execution. At one point, the riot police charged opponents of the former president.

Lawyers for the families of the demonstrators who were killed have asked for greater access to Mr Mubarak's communication records.

The families want to know what orders he gave to his officials as police tried to stop the protests.

Defence lawyers have meanwhile demanded that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who leads the military council that took over from Mr Mubarak but who was his defence minister for two decades, must testify. They say his evidence on Mr Mubarak could prove pivotal.

The judge has still to rule on who will testify.

Mr Mubarak's lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, has asked the judge to call 1,600 witnesses.

Observers say the judge will probably reduce the list he has demanded.

Mr Mubarak is reported to be in a poor state of health, and doctors have been constantly monitoring his medical condition at a military hospital near the capital.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, in Cairo, says the Mubarak legacy touches every part of Egypt and the way they deal with it will shape the new society as it emerges.

But as the violence outside the trial showed, he says, Egyptians are deeply divided about the past and about what comes next.

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