Hosni Mubarak arrived in court on a stretcher Wednesday morning after being flown from a hospital to face the unthinkable – a possible death sentence for a once seemingly invincible ruler.
Suffering from heart and gall bladder problems, along with reported cancer, the disgraced former president will sit in a wheel chair with his doctors present in case of emergency, in the same iron cage in court where once stood the murderer of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
Mubarak, a former air force commander, took Sadat’s place and ruled Egypt with an iron hand for three decades, allegedly raking in billions of dollars for his and his family’s vaults.
The sudden and unprecedented Arab Spring uprising earlier this year, prompted by similar protests in Tunisia, was the beginning of a political and social earthquake that still shakes the entire Middle East, and brought his rulership to an end.
Mubarak desperately held on to power in the beginning of the uprising, using his military force to murder more than 800 citizens and wound thousands others. Now, he and two sons face charges of murder, theft and bribery.
Israel Radio claimed Wednesday morning that Mubarak was offered asylum in Eilat by Israel's government, but did not accept the offer.
The provisional military regime that replaced Mubarak faces the same accusations that deposed Mubarak and is anxious to prove it will not allow Mubarak’s ailments to keep him out of the cage in court.
Mubarak was flown Wednesday morning from his hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, with special medical equipment on board.
The courtroom in Cairo is surrounded by security forces, and only 10 non-Egyptian journalists are being allowed to view the proceedings live. A screen outside the building will show the trial to the public.
Outside, protesters have lined the street demanding Mubarak be executed, while a smaller number of supporters is threatening to burn the prison if he is sentenced.