Hosni Mubarak Stands Trial In Courtroom Cage

VIDEO: Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lies on a stretcher behind bars.
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The reports started trickling out around seven o' clock in the morning. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was on the move. A motorcade was taking him from the hospital in the resort town of the Sharm el-Sheikh to a plane waiting to ferry him to Cairo.

It wasn't until just after 9 a.m., when a white helicopter started its descent towards the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo that used to bear his name, that everyone in Egypt realized they would in fact get the first glimpse of Mubarak since a defiant speech on February 10.

Cameras for Egyptian state television panned Lecture Hall No. 1, now a courtroom with a custom-made black iron cage as its centerpiece. It is here that Mubarak is facing charges of corruption and complicity the in killings of almost 900 protesters during the 18-day revolution that has shaken the rest of the Arab world to its core.

For almost three weeks in January and February, millions of Egyptians gathered to protest Mubarak's heavy-handed 30-year rule. Cairo's central Tahrir -- Liberation -- Square became home to the budding revolution and then the site of bloody attacks by Mubarak's police and plainclothes thugs. Some rode horses and camels in the infamous "Battle of the Camels."

Mubarak Wheeled In On Gurney

Around 9:30, the defendants started to enter the cage, 11 in all. But unlike the others, Mubarak was wheeled in on a gurney and placed at the far end of the cage.

Outside, hundreds gathered around a big television screen, many clearly stunned they were witnessing the trial of a man who was essentially the country's dictator for three decades.

"I didn't believe he will come here," said Samer Kamel. "I didn't believe."

A short distance away, Muhammed al Aqad wandered the academy's parking lot under the blazing sun with a poster of his son Mustafa. The 18-year-old high school senior was shot and killed on the fourth day of the January uprising while protesting in his Cairo neighborhood of Mataria.

"[Today] we feel that the blood of my son and of the martyrs was not spilled in vain," said al Aqad. "Today justice was served…"

Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Alaa, both held Korans during the proceedings. They appeared to attempt to block the television cameras from zooming on their father's face.

Then he spoke.

"I am here, your honor," Mubarak responded into a microphone when the judge called on him.

Asked how he responded to the charges against him, Mubarak replied, "I categorically deny them all," and then passed the microphone back to Gamal.

Reports of ill health have persisted since Mubarak was arrested in early April. He had a heart attack, he has cancer, he's not eating and is depressed. Many Egyptians were convinced a health excuse would be used to escape today's appearance.

But despite the hospital bed, Mubarak didn't look as frail as many expected. He was seemingly alert, his hair still dyed jet black. Leading to speculation, of course, that he was playing the sympathy card with the bed.

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The day was not without its violence, however, as pro-Mubarak supporters clashed with anti-Mubarak protesters. Rocks and bottles were thrown as riot police -- rarely seen since February -- tried to keep the peace.

Egyptians not at the police academy huddled around television sets across the country to watch the goings on. At a coffee shop in Cairo's upscale neighborhood of Zamalek, it was difficult to find anyone who feels Mubarak's trial is constructive.

"This is a crime, an international crime, it has never happened before!" shouted travel agent Essam El Gammal.

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"He's got enough punishment," said another man perched on a stool. "What happened to him now is enough."

The trial adjourned in the early afternoon after several recesses. The judge announced Mubarak would be transferred to a hospital facility outside Cairo until the court re-convenes on August 15.

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