"The pharaoh in a cage", that is how Egyptian newspapers summed up the downfall of Hosni Mubarak from once an all powerful president to his pathetic appearance on a hospital stretcher in a Cairo courtroom on Wednesday to face trial on charges that could lead to his execution.
"All these charges, I deny them completely," an ashen-faced Mubarak, 83, told the court as his historic trial got underway amidst violent clashes and scuffles between his supporters and opponents outside the special courtroom.
Mubarak, looking pale and dressed in white, pleaded innocent from a metal wired mesh cage to charges of graft and unlawful killings of anti-regime protesters during the revolution that forced him out of power.His two sons Alaa and Gamal, who were in the dock beside him, also pleaded not guilty of corruption charges as presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat adjourned the hearing till August 15 and said the former president would stay in a Cairo hospital until then.
He, thus, became the first Arab ruler in modern times to be put in the dock. His trial has rattled Arab rulers - Monarchs and Presidents - who have long held sway over most of the Muslim nations in the region.
The image of the man, who held absolute power in Egypt for more than three decades, in a cage was beamed live all over the country, thrilling thousands who took to the streets to overthrow him, but must have chilled other Arab rulers facing similar public uprisings.
The prosecutors said Mubarak "had the intention to kill" peaceful protesters during a revolt that ousted him on February 11. He was also accused of allowing former interior minister Habib-al-Adil to use live ammunition on protesters.
Unlike Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first Arab leader to be ousted in the Arab Spring and who fled to Saudi Arabia, Mubarak has vowed to die on Egyptian soil. Ben Ali has been tried and sentenced to jail in absentia.
If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty.