CAIRO — Today, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is expected to appear inside an iron cage, the centerpiece of a courtroom and a powerful reminder of how much has changed since his ouster nearly six months ago.
Judges who got their jobs during Mubarak's reign will preside. Egypt's top prosecutor, appointed by Mubarak, will submit the charges against him. As the proceedings are broadcast live, millions in the country he ruled for three decades will be riveted.
"It's a decisive moment in the history of the Egyptian people to see this ousted president behind the prosecution cage after seeing him portrayed as a divine figure on television for decades," said Mahmoud el-Khodairy, a former judge who is a critic of Mubarak.
Mubarak is accused of graft and of ordering the killing of nearly 900 demonstrators who took to the streets during the 18-day uprising that ended when the powerful military chiefs forced him to step aside in February.
Many Egyptians have grown weary of the country's interim military leadership, led by Mubarak's longtime defense minister, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, and have voiced doubt in recent months that the trial would go forward. But the military rulers, under growing public pressure to try Mubarak and others, appear willing to proceed, and judicial and security officials have offered reassurances that the former president and decorated war hero will in fact be tried.
Egypt's health minister said last week that Mubarak is well enough to stand trial, despite assertions from the 83-year-old's camp that he is in failing health. The interior minister said Sunday that officials were medically and logistically prepared to transfer Mubarak from the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he is hospitalized, to Cairo.
At the national police academy in a Cairo suburb, "Lecture Hall No. 1" is being fashioned into a courtroom, complete with a cage with iron bars for the defendants. Mubarak will stand trial with his two sons, as well as former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli and several other defendants. The judge overseeing the case will allow 600 people to observe from inside the hall.