Middle East

Scuffles as Hosni Mubarak trial resumes in Egypt

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Media captionThe BBC's Bethany Bell reports on scuffles outside the venue for Hosni Mubarak's trial

Scuffles have broken out as the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak resumed in Egypt's capital Cairo.

Riot police had to separate anti- and pro-Mubarak crowds outside the police academy courthouse where the trial was taking place.

The 83-year-old is accused of ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising earlier this year which ended his rule. He denies the charges.

This is the third hearing of the trial. The judge has banned live TV coverage.

At earlier court hearings, TV images showed Mr Mubarak, who led Egypt for 30 years, in a cage on a sick bed. The footage made compulsive viewing for people across the Arab World.

Emotions were running high outside the court on Monday morning, reports the BBC's Bethany Bell from the scene in the outskirts of Cairo. Some people were chanting in favour of Mr Mubarak and others were saying he should hang.

There were even scuffles inside the court, she said. During a recess in the trial, someone raised a photo of the former president - which was then seized and burnt.

Compulsive viewing

The session began after a helicopter flew in the ailing Mr Mubarak from his Cairo hospital. A witness said he was wheeled into court on a stretcher.

State television said his two sons Gamal and Alaa, as well as other defendants, had also arrived.

The court has heard from several senior police officers who were on duty during the 18-day uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square in January and February - during which 850 people were killed.

According to lawyers at the trial, the officials said they had been given orders to use teargas and water cannons.

Reuters news agency reports that one senior officer, Gen Hussein Saeed Mohamed Mursi, testified that he had overheard a conversation between top officers in the operations room saying they did not have reinforcements to protect jails and the interior ministry.

This prompted the officers to release weapons and ammunition that were transferred to the interior ministry building in ambulances because police cars were being targeted, he said.

Gen Mursi told the court that police were ordered to prevent protesters from reaching Tahrir Square "as the situation mandated and the freedom was left to them to deal with protesters in a manner they saw fit".

But he said he had never heard of "any incident where an order was given to use live ammunition against protesters", Reuters news agency reports.

The victims' families want to know what orders Mr Mubarak gave to his officials as police tried to stop the mass protests that resulted in the president's resignation on 11 February.

This is the first hearing not to be broadcast since a ruling to ban live television coverage was made by Judge Ahmed Refaat at the last session on 15 August.

He was said to have been exasperated by the army of lawyers showing off for the benefit of television in court.

Observers - including leading lawyers - have said the move should make the work of the court easier, although opponents of Mr Mubarak have said this may be a cover-up signalling the court has done a deal with the defendants.

The trial of Mr Mubarak and his sons has been merged with that of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who is also accused of ordering the killing of protesters.

All of the defendants deny the charges.

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