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Ailing Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in the dock

Former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was dragged into public court in his hospital bed to face charges of being behind the deaths of hundreds of protesters who helped cause his downfall.

As a stunned nation watched on live TV yesterday, the ailing 83-year-old, lying ashen-faced inside a metal cage with his two sons standing beside him in white prison uniforms, claimed he was not guilty.

Many Egyptians savoured the images of the man whose 29-year rule saw opponents tortured, corruption rife, poverty spread and political life stifled.

Mubarak fell in February after an 18-day uprising. It was the first time Egyptians have seen him since February 10, when he gave a TV address refusing to resign.

A prosecutor read the charges against Mubarak - that he was an accomplice along with his then-interior minister in the "intentional and premeditated murder of peaceful protesters" and that he and his sons received gifts from a prominent businessman in return for guaranteeing him a lowered price in a land deal with the state.

"I deny all these accusations completely," he said into a microphone, wagging his finger.

His sons Gamal and Alaa also pleaded not guilty. With him in the cage were his nine co-defendants.

After several hours, the judge adjourned Mubarak and his sons' trial until August 15.

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