REPORTING FROM CAIRO –- Toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was portrayed by his lawyer Tuesday as an uncorrupted patriot who has been "mauled by malicious talk" in connection with charges that he was complicit in the deaths of hundreds of anti-government protesters.
The opening statement by Mubarak's defense, delivered by Farid Deeb, was a calculated and theatrical bid to paint the deposed ruler as a military man and leader who served his country for decades and now, in old age, has been humiliated by the trumped-up charges of his enemies.
"Mubarak is neither a tyrant nor a bloodthirsty man. He respects the judiciary and its decisions. A clean man who could say no wrong," said Deeb, who has represented celebrities and powerful politicians for years. "This man who stands in front of you is 83, fatigued by ailments after devoting his entire life to the service of his nation.
"He has been mauled by malicious talk. He has been targeted from all directions, and his reputation has been hit by tongues and pens."
Such prose punctuated Deeb's remarks as Mubarak, whose trial began in August, watched from the defendant's cage. He is charged with financial crimes and complicity in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that led to his downfall last February.
The prosecution rested its case in December, accusing Mubarak, who faces the death penalty, of ordering his security forces to fire live ammunition at demonstrators in a desperate gambit to hold on to power. That version of events, however, was complicated by a lack of evidence and recanting by several key witnesses once they reached the courtroom.
Mubarak's defense argued that the state was allowing peaceful protests but that the demonstrations were hijacked by Islamists and militants who challenged the government’s legitimacy. Judge Ahmed Refaat told Mubarak's legal team they will have five court sessions to complete their case.
A verdict could come as early as February. Mubarak is being tried with former Interior Minister Habib Adli and several former top security officials. Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are also defendants, charged with financial corruption.
"There is not a shred of evidence against my client but forged information and hearsay," Deeb said. "And I intend to counter every lie brought against him by lawyers who want nothing but fame."
-- Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: Egyptian riot police on Tuesday restrain a protester screaming at supporters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak outside the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, where the former ruler's trial is taking place. Credit: Agence France-Presse