Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is taken back to court Wednesday… (Reuters )
Reporting from Cairo — A senior Egyptian police official was charged with perjury Wednesday after testifying in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak that security forces did not use live ammunition against protesters in the revolution that overthrew the leader.
The decision by Judge Ahmed Refaat to charge the officer bolstered the prosecution, which over two days has been embarrassed by key witnesses who are said to have recanted earlier statements implicating Mubarak's regime. Families of hundreds of victims reportedly shot by police last winter fear that the deposed president, charged with complicity to commit murder, may be not be convicted.
An acquittal could trigger mass street protests with the country still struggling from months of turmoil.
Civil rights lawyers cheered when the judged detained Capt. Mohamed Abdel Hakim for alleged perjury. But it remained uncertain whether the prosecution could break the intense loyalty that security officials have for Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib Adli.
The prosecution is attempting to prove that Mubarak ordered Interior Ministry forces to use live ammunition to crush protests from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11, when more than 800 people were killed. But the prosecution's five witnesses thus far have testified that they were aware of no such orders.
Hakim's testimony echoed that given by four police officials on Monday. He said that on Jan. 28 he was attached to a brigade that went into the streets armed only with shields, batons, tear gas and pellet pistols.
"Some of the victims were shot with live ammunition," the judge said. "Who do you think shot them?"
Mohamed replied: "I don't know."
As during other court sessions, Mubarak, who is said to have heart problems, watched the proceedings lying on a stretcher and peering through the bars of the defendant's cage. His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who are charged with financial corruption, stood beside him, along with Adli and six senior former Interior Ministry officials.
The case has transfixed the Arab world and has given Egyptians a glimpse into the inner working of a police state that repressed them for nearly 30 years. It has also highlighted the deep divisions Mubarak has left across the country since his downfall. Minor clashes between Mubarak loyalists and the families of victims have erupted outside the courtroom at the Police Academy on the outskirts of Cairo.