Six months after leaving office, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appeared in court on charges of killing protestors during the January demonstrations and for improper use of public funds.
Some Egyptians named the event the "trial of the century".
Millions of Egyptians watched the four-hour trial, which began Wednesday (August 3rd), either at home or in cafes. Work in most government departments and private companies came to a halt as employees were distracted by the event.
Mubarak appeared with his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his top aides.
At the conclusion of the court session, presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat, head of the Cairo Criminal Court, adjourned the trial of Mubarak, his two sons, and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem until August 15th. The court also adjourned the trial of al-Adly and his aides until Thursday, at which time it was postponed until August 14th.
The trial was held at the Police Academy headquarters in the suburb of Tagammu Khames, east of Cairo. It was known as Mubarak's Academy before the revolution.
The court resolved a heated debate regarding where Mubarak would be held, announcing that he will stay at the International Medical Centre on the Cairo-Ismailia desert road. He will continue to receive appropriate medical care. The court also announced that Alaa and Gamal Mubarak will remain in prison.
During the session, Mubarak denied the prosecution's charges that he incited to kill peaceful demonstrators during the 18 days of demonstrations in January and that he exploited his position for illegal gains.
Mubarak's defence team, headed by lawyer Fareed al-Deeb, filed a number of motions with the court, one of which requested testimony from over 1,500 witnesses, including Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The prosecutors demanded initial compensation of one billion pounds by the defendants to the Egyptian treasury to repair the damage to public and private property that occurred during the demonstrations.
Mubarak was forced to step down February 11th, after 18 consecutive days of demonstrations nationwide demanding the end to his presidency. Since he stepped down, Mubarak has refused to leave the country and settled in Sharm el-Sheikh Hospital for treatment after the prosecutor general ordered he be held in custody until a trial began.
Abdul Rahman Samir, a member of the Revolution Youth Coalition, told Al-Shorfa the trial is an accomplishment for the Egyptian revolution, and the image of Mubarak in the cage will be imprinted on the minds of all future presidents.
"The rule of law and the principle of accountability are the most important building blocks in founding a democratic state, especially in the case of an autocratic ruler who imposed an emergency law that he used to suppress the freedoms of Egyptians for more than 30 years," Samir said.
Samir does not expect a sentence to be issued soon, but noted the trial is a step toward restoring confidence between political groups and Egypt's ruling Supreme Military Council.
The Revolution Youth Coalition and more than 26 other groups suspended their sit-ins in Tahrir Square on Sunday to allow the judiciary an opportunity to decide on Mubarak's case and to give the new government a chance.
Mohammed Adel, the official spokesman for the April 6 Movement, said the trial is a "historic event". He added that by making the trial public and broadcasting it live, the issue is transparent for all Egyptians.
Adel said the trials of former regime officials are a result of the intense pressure the youth groups applied during the past three months.
Dr. Emad Gad, an analyst at al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said the Mubarak trial is testimony that the revolution is a "genuine, pure, comprehensive revolution, and not just an uprising or a transitory movement."
Gad said the trial proceedings and Mubarak's appearance in a civil court went well and provide evidence of the civility and peaceful nature of the revolution. He noted that in some revolutions deposed leaders were tried in revolutionary courts or were executed, citing Romania as an example.
Cairo's crowded streets were clear of pedestrians and cars Wednesday. In the city centre, many coffee shops opened their doors to pedestrians to watch the trial free of charge, a notable exception to tradition because all cafes and restaurants usually close their doors during fasting hours in Ramadan.
Ismail Mahmoud, a worker in a Tahrir Square café, said the trial is an extraordinary moment, and the city centre did not sleep as people eagerly awaited the first session.
He recalled thousands of demonstrations in Tahrir Square over the past 15 years demanding freedom and justice, and that is why he and his friends insisted on following the trial from the square.
Most people who spoke with Al-Shorfa agreed that justice must be served, and some expressed sympathy for the former president because of his declining health.
Manar Uthman, 30, an employee with a private company, said, "Mubarak's trial is a priority in fulfilling the Egyptian revolution's demands and is a lesson to all officials in the Arab world."
"The blood of Egyptian citizens is not cheap and whoever sheds it must be punished, even if it is Mubarak, because the people are above all," she said.
Mustafa Amer, a 56-year-old retiree, opposed putting Mubarak in the defendants' dock.
"The Egyptian people should be merciful to a man of Mubarak's age, whose humiliation is of no benefit," he said.
As great as Mubarak's mistakes might have been, the Egyptian people must transcend this stage and think of the future, Amer said.