The trial of the ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is to go ahead away from the public gaze after the judge announced that proceedings would no longer be televised.
The decision by presiding judge n August 15, Ahmed Refaat, came on the resumption of the trial which started under the global media spotlight on August 3. It followed violent clashes between supporters and opponents of Mubarak outside the makeshift courtroom, a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo.
Mubarak is facing charges of corruption and ordering the use of deadly force against protesters during the uprising. A conviction could result in him being sentenced to death.
The televised images of the former dictator lying stricken inside a specially-built cage caused shockwaves in Egyptian society and beyond when they were beamed across the world on the trial's first day.
On August 15, for the second time in a fortnight, the 83-year-old Mubarak was wheeled into the courtroom lying in a gurney to face charges that could result in his execution. The former president's defense team insists he is gravely ill.
An intravenous needle was seen sticking out of his left hand. His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who are also on trial, were present with their father inside the cage and attempted to shield him from television cameras.
But almost immediately, Refaat said that TV cameras would no longer be allowed to record events and adjourned the trial until September 5 after Mubarak's lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, asked for a postponement to allow all relevant documents to be reviewed.
Deeb has asked to be allowed to call 1,600 witnesses, including top military officials. Rafeet also announced that Mubarak's trial would be merged with that of his former interior minister, Habib El-Adli, who is also accused of ordering the killing of demonstrators in the protests that toppled the former president in February. More than 850 people are said to have died in the 18-day upheaval.
Despite his weakened state, Mubarak announced himself as "present" to the court in a strong voice when his name was called. His very appearance was something of a relief to opponents who feared that supporters' pleas over the state of his health might result in him not turning up.
Outside the court building, emotions ran high as violence ensued between those for and against the man who ran Egypt with an iron fist for nearly 30 years.
With riot police and army soldiers standing guard, people outside the courtroom accused the security forces of chasing the anti-Mubarak protesters exclusively.
The confrontations betrayed the raw emotions felt by many Egyptians over the ex-president's downfall.
The confrontations betrayed the raw emotions felt by many Egyptians over the humbling specter of the former dictator being imprisoned behind a cage and lying prone on a hospital bed.
"I am just one of 85 million people, but it isn't possible for us to put a man, who has been with us [ruling] the country for 30 years, on trial," one man, Ahmed, told Reuters. "The one who should be tried is the [former] minister of interior [Adli] for the lack of security, and others who stole billions. But this man [Mubarak] is a military man, how are we trying him? He's kept the country out of wars for the past 30 years, yes the country had its problems but it wasn't just one person's fault, it was everyone's fault. So we cannot try him. When we talk about the [charges] of the killing of protesters and the lack of security, Habib El-Adli should be held responsible for it all."
That view was contradicted by a Mubarak opponent, Mustafa al-Ogeel, who said the trial was necessary to enable Egypt to move on.
"We have to stand together so that the Egyptians can stand on their own two feet again. Turkey is not better than us. America is not better than us. Russia is not better than us. No industrial country is better than us," Ogeel said. "Egypt needs industry, it needs trade and agriculture. Where was Hosni Mubarak when all of this needed to be done? Hosni was selling Egypt away. He sold land in Sharm El-Sheikh."
Speculation is rife about the role in the trial of Egypt's de facto military leader, Field-Marshall Muhammad al-Tantawi, who has been called as a witness. Some believe the evidence of Tantawi, a one-time close ally of the former president, could be key to incriminating or exonerating him.
based on agency reports