- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian judge on Wednesday set June 2 as the date for the verdict and sentencing in the trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, which could put the man who spent nearly 30 years as one of the Arab world’s key strongmen on death row.

Mr. Mubarak is accused of complicity in the killing of protesters during the 18-day popular uprising that pushed him from power in February of last year. More than 800 people were killed during the uprising, many of them demonstrators shot dead by security forces.

A guilty verdict would make Mr. Mubarak the first leader ousted during the Arab Spring uprisings to face legal punishment by his own people.

A ruling of not guilty — a distinct possibility — could set off new a new round of unrest.

Egyptians have closely followed the seven-month-long case, and many accuse the council of ruling army generals who took power when Mr. Mubarak stepped down of dragging out the proceedings.

Critics of the military’s handling of the transition to democracy say the trial’s pace reflects a wider lack of justice for those killed in the uprising. Egyptian courts so far have not punished any police officers for the protester deaths.

Others have criticized the prosecution, saying it has failed to present strong enough evidence to support a murder charge.

Judge Ahmed Rifat announced on Wednesday the date of the final hearing, in which Mr. Mubarak will receive both his verdict and sentence, saying it would be open to media coverage. Most media have been barred from the majority of the hearings since the start of the trial.

The prosecution is calling for the death penalty for Mr. Mubarak and five others, which would be by hanging.

Mr. Mubarak rarely has spoken during the trial, and on Wednesday he turned down his last chance to address the court during the defense’s final arguments.

“I have no comment,” Mr. Mubarak told the judge, adding that what his lawyer said was enough.

Later, during the session that lasted more than nine hours, Mr. Mubarak fell asleep.

The defense argued that Mr. Mubarak is still president and thus can be tried only for treason or in a special court. It has also blamed the uprising on foreign agents who allegedly sneaked into the country to destabilize it.

Mr. Mubarak’s interior minister during the uprising reiterated that argument Wednesday in comments to the court that lasted an hour and a half.

“I reaffirm before you that there were foreign saboteurs who desecrated Egypt’s pure land,” said Habib el-Adly, who ran Mr. Mubarak’s security services and faces the same charge.

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