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Mubarak summoned to appear in court

Egypt's prosecutor general has formally summoned Hosni Mubarak to appear at his trial, giving the clearest indication that the ousted president will be brought to the Cairo courtroom this week despite questions about his health.

If he does appear at Wednesday's opening session in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, Mubarak will face an audience of 600 people, including relatives of some of the 850 protesters killed in the crackdown on the 18-day uprising that forced him from power in February.

Activists believe Mubarak's health is being used as a ruse to postpone the proceedings and they accuse Egypt's ruling military council, whose head was Mubarak's longtime defence minister, of dragging its feet on the prosecution of the ex-president and other key members of his regime.

Prosecutor general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud asked the security chief to arrange for Mubarak's appearance in court to face charges he ordered the killing of protesters.

Interior Minister Mansour el-Issawi "received a request from the prosecutor general asking for former President Hosni Mubarak to appear in court on August 3", said a statement carried by the official news agency.

Barring a sudden health failure, Mubarak must now appear in court or risk the maximum penalty of execution if he is tried in absentia and found guilty, said Nasser Amin, a human rights lawyer who plans to attend the trial but is not participating in the proceedings.

After his February 11 overthrow, Mubarak, 83, left Cairo for the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. He was later admitted to a hospital there for treatment for heart problems. He has remained at the hospital in police custody and has not appeared in public since.

On Sunday, the head of the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital, Mohammed Fathallah, said Mubarak had a routine check-up and his condition was relatively stable.

In recent days, doctors treating Mubarak had said he was weak and losing weight because he was refusing to eat or eating little. They had also said he was suffering from depression.

The trial will be held in a Cairo suburb and is expected to draw a large crowd.

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