CAIRO — The criminal prosecution of former President Hosni Mubarak stumbled badly Monday after four senior police officials denied that he had ordered Egyptian security forces to use live ammunition against demonstrators challenging his rule.
Victims’ lawyers were shocked and outraged, and violence erupted in and outside the courtroom — all four officers had been expected to testify against Mubarak.
“The prosecution cheated the people,” human rights lawyer Gamal Eid wrote in a Twitter message after the hearing ended.
“A mood of disgust and disappointment.”
Mubarak is the first autocrat put on trial by a government brought to power by the regional democracy movement known as the Arab Spring, and his trial has drawn worldwide attention. While Egyptian legal experts said it was too soon to draw conclusions about the ultimate verdict, for many Egyptians, the testimony Monday raised for the first time the possibility that Mubarak might win acquittal.
A fistfight and repeated scuffles erupted between lawyers representing demonstrators killed during the protests and lawyers for the defense. And after one such fight during an early recess, people in the courtroom began chanting, “The people want to execute the murderer,” Eid, the human rights lawyer, wrote in a Twitter message from the courtroom.
Outside, relatives of some of the more than 800 people killed during the demonstrations that ousted Mubarak threw stones at baton-wielding riot police outside the courtroom, and about two dozen were reportedly arrested and another roughly two dozen injured.