The trial of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took an interesting turn on Monday after a key prosecution witness testified in his favor.
According to The Associated Press, the prosecution’s first witness startled the court when he testified that police were not ordered to fire on protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a contradiction of the prosecutors’ central claim.
The report said prosecution lawyers were visibly stunned by the testimony of the witness, Gen. Hussein Moussa, and angrily accused him of having changed his story from the affidavit he initially gave prosecutors.
Moussa was the opening witness for the prosecution as the trial moved for the first time into testimony. Prosecutors claim that Mubarak’s former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly issued the orders allowing use of lethal force against the protesters, and Moussa, who headed the communications unit of the Central Security Forces, was supposed to pin the orders to open fire on protesters directly to el-Adly, and by implication to Mubarak.
But, AP reported, when the judge asked Moussa on the stand if he knew whether el-Adly issued such orders, Moussa replied, “No, I don’t know.” He said it was Gen. Ahmed Ramzy, another of the defendants, who gave the order, and when asked by the judge whether there was anybody else, he responded “No.”
Moussa claimed in his testimony that live ammunition was used only against protesters who tried to attack the Cairo security headquarters, police stations and prisons. He added that in Tahrir Square, security forces used only tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
One of the prosecution lawyers then confronted Moussa, saying that in early questioning by prosecutors he testified that el-Adly himself gave the order to use live ammunition and that it had been used against protesters in front of the ruling party headquarters. Moussa replied to by saying, “I have no answer.”
AP added that two other police officers who testified later in the session echoed a similar line as Moussa, saying there were no orders to kill the protesters but that “the orders were to open fire in the air or at their legs.”
The report noted that prosecutors still have further witnesses and while they appear to have ample evidence of police shootings, they will need to prove a clear line of orders from el-Adly or Mubarak allowing the use of lethal force.
At least six people were wounded in a brawl in the courtroom Monday between defendants and victims’ lawyers.
The session was the first one that was not telecast to viewers outside the building, but Twitter messages were sent by a member of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.
Mubarak was wheeled in on a stretcher, and his sons, Alaa and Gamal were escorted into the courtroom in handcuffs for the first time. AP reported that relatives of slain protesters threw water bottles at the defendants’ cage, shouting “Mubarak, you traitor” and “The people want to execute the ousted one.”
Meanwhile, outside the courtroom building, police fought with protesters. Al Ahram reported that the clashes broke out when police refused to allow the entry of several families of those killed in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations but let relatives of police officers to enter.
After a brief period of calm, the families of those killed started throwing stones at supporters of Mubarak, and three people and a policeman were wounded, in addition to those inside the courtroom.