Cairo: Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak returns to court Sunday to face charges over protester deaths, as Muslim Brotherhood leaders make their first appearances in court on similar but unrelated charges.
Separate hearings in different parts of the capital come against the backdrop of continued tension in the country, which has been rocked by political turmoil since the army ousted Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in a July 3 coup.
Meanwhile, Egypt is to shorten its night-time curfew by two hours, pushing back the start time to 9pm (1900 GMT) except on Fridays, the premier’s office said on Saturday.
“To lessen the burden on citizens and respond to popular request, the length of the curfew will be shortened and will begin at 9pm instead of 7pm,” it said in a statement.
The curfew will continue to end at 6am, the statement said, adding that the changes would go into effect immediately but would not apply on Fridays.
Mubarak, who left prison for house arrest this week, is scheduled to appear at a hearing in his retrial on charges of complicity in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that force him to resign.
The case is one of several against the former president, who was granted pre-trial release this week by a court.
Mubarak was placed under house arrest by interim prime minister Hazem Al Beblawi, acting on the basis of special powers granted to him under the country’s state of emergency.
The 85-year-old former president is being held at a military hospital in Cairo and it was not immediately clear if he would attend the morning hearing at the Police Academy.
Mubarak was convicted last June and sentenced to life in prison, but a retrial was ordered in January after he appealed.
He could face the death penalty in that case, and is also facing charges in several corruption cases.
As his hearing begins, Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammad Badie and two deputies - Rashad Bayoumi and Khairat Al Shater - are to make their first appearance before a court on charges of inciting the murder of protesters.
Badie was take into custody just last week - the first time a Brotherhood supreme guide has been arrested since 1981.
Al Shater and Bayoumi were rounded up earlier, following the ouster of Mursi, a fellow Brotherhood member.
They are accused of inciting the murder of protesters who died outside their Cairo headquarters on the evening of June 30, when millions of Egyptians attended anti-Mursi protests.
Another three Brotherhood members will stand trial with them, accused of carrying out the murders in question.
All six face the death penalty if convicted.
Egyptian authorities have issued arrest warrants and detention orders for hundreds of Brotherhood members and detained several senior leaders of the group in recent days.
According to security sources, at least 2,000 have been arrested since August 14.
Mursi, who is being held at an undisclosed location, faces charges related to his escape from prison during the 2011 uprising, as well as complicity in the deaths and torture of protesters.
The latter charge involves demonstrations against him outside the presidential place in late 2012.
Sunday’s court cases come after days of relative calm in Egypt, following a week of unprecedented bloodletting in the country that began on August 14.
That was when security forces moved to break up two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, sparking clashes that left nearly 600 people dead across the country in a single day.
Additional violence followed in the days after, raising fears of prolonged bloodshed.
But authorities have mounted a fierce crackdown against the Brotherhood and its allies, that has thinned the group’s ranks and sent many members into hiding.
The arrests have also shattered the group’s structure and made it increasingly difficult for them to turn out in force at demonstrations.
On Friday, just a few thousand took part in marches across Cairo - a stark drop from the hundreds of thousands that had turned out in previous demonstrations.
The government has insisted it will proceed with a roadmap, which includes a plan for a new constitution and elections, that is rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood.