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Trial of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak postponed

The trial of Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak on charges of complicity in the killing of more than 800 protesters this year has been adjourned until Dec 28.

world Updated: Oct 31, 2011 11:58 IST

The trial of Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak on charges of complicity in the killing of more than 800 protesters this year has been adjourned until Dec 28.

Mubarak's trial began nearly three months ago, and Sunday's lengthy adjournment was certain to frustrate leaders of the anti-Mubarak protest movement who want to see the former leader and his co-defendants his two sons, security chief and six top police officers brought swiftly to justice.

Mubarak stepped down in February after a popular uprising. Reformers are frustrated by what they see as the slow progress by Egypt's military rulers to liberalize the system.

The adjournment was meant to allow time for another court to rule on a request by lawyers for the victims to remove the three-judge panel in Mubarak's trial. That ruling is expected on Nov 3.

Mubarak, his two sons, former security chief and the six police officers sat in the defendants' cage for Sunday's 10-minute hearing. If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty. Mubarak and his sons also face corruption charges.

An 18-day uprising forced Mubarak to step down Feb 11.

Also Sunday, two prominent activists were summoned for questioning by military prosecutors for their alleged role in the incitement of clashes this month in which 27 people, most of them Christians, were killed and hundreds were wounded.

The two refused to answer the prosecutors' questions on grounds that the military was involved in the violence and therefore could not be impartial, according to rights lawyer Gamal Eid.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah was ordered held in custody for 15 days, while Bahaa Saber was released.

The two are suspected of inciting the violence and of damaging military property.

The questioning of the two set social networks abuzz with comments by activists denouncing the move and calling for the ouster of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the body of top military officers that took over from Mubarak.

The Oct 9 violence was the deadliest since the military took over and was a stark contrast to the idealistic sense of Muslim-Christian unity that flourished during the anti-Mubarak uprising.

It began when thousands of Christians demonstrated outside the state television building in Cairo, protesting an attack on a church in southern Egypt. Army troops waded in, and armored personnel carriers barreled through the crowds. Some of the dead were crushed by army vehicles or shot to death, according to video from the scene. State media said three soldiers were among the dead.

The military tried to exonerate itself, blaming the Christians and "hidden hands" for starting the violence, denying its troops shot protesters or intentionally ran them over. Witnesses said soldiers started the melee. Videos showing soldiers beating and shooting into crowds and armored vehicles seeming to chase protesters cast doubt on the military's account.

Abdel-Fattah and Saber were the latest in a long list of bloggers, journalists and activists who have been questioned by the military or faced military tribunals. The referral of civilians to military trials at least 12,000 since February is at the heart of tension between the military and the youth groups behind Mubarak's ouster.

The military is also accused by the groups of mishandling the transition period and acting too slowly in dismantling the elements of Mubarak's 29-year regime. The military insists that it plans to hand over power to an elected civilian government and that its concern for the country's security is the reason for its use of military courts to try civilians.

First Published: Oct 31, 2011 11:55 IST