CAIRO -- The chief prosecutor delivered the harshest assessment of Hosni Mubarak's rule ever heard in an Egyptian courtroom Tuesday, accusing the ousted leader of tyranny and corruption and saying he devoted the last 10 years of his three decades in power to ensuring his son would succeed him.
The speech by Mustafa Suleiman seemed aimed at energizing the landmark trial of Mubarak, his two sons and eight other defendants after five months of sessions that were often bogged down by lengthy delays, muddled testimonies and complicated procedural issues.
The procedures have frustrated many Egyptians, who have hoped for swift and clear justice against Mubarak after his Feb. 11 ouster following 18 days of unprecedented protests against his rule.
Many have worried that the generals who took power after Mubarak – and who owed their positions to him – have no interest in convicting him, and Suleiman's unusually broad denunciations of the former leader may have aimed at allaying such fears.
"He deserves to end in humiliation and indignity: From the presidential palace to the defendants' cage and then the harshest penalty," said Suleiman, whose hour-long comments mesmerized the courtroom, set up at a police academy that once bore the former leader's name.
Mubarak, his former chief of security and other top police figures are charged with complicity in the killing of more than 800 protesters in the crackdown on the popular uprising against his rule. He and his sons, Alaa and one-time heir apparent Gamal, face corruption charges in the same trial.
Mubarak could face the death penalty if convicted of complicity in the killing the protesters.
Tuesday's session was the first of three days in which the prosecution will state its case against Mubarak, and it was the first time that the chief prosecutor has spoken in length during the trial. His statement went far beyond the specific charges to denounce Mubarak's broader rule.
Suleiman said the corruption of Mubarak's regime peaked in November and December 2010, when authorities engineered what is widely seen as the most fraudulent parliamentary election seen in Egypt since the army seized power in a 1952 coup. Mubarak's ruling party won all but a handful of seats in the vote in what Suleiman said was part of a strategy to ensure Gamal's succession.
"Here we have a president who devoted the last decade of his rule to engineer something that no one in Egypt ever dared to do before – the succession of his son," said the prosecutor, addressing presiding Judge Ahmed Rifaat with his back to the courtroom cage where Mubarak and the other defendants were held.
As has been the case since the start of the trial five months ago, the 83-year-old Mubarak came to court Tuesday on a hospital gurney. His two sons wore white prison uniforms. All three listened intently while Suleiman spoke but said nothing. The judge adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.
A banker-turned-politician, Gamal began his climb to power in 2000. By the time the 18-day uprising broke out on Jan. 25, he was effectively in charge of the Cabinet and the ruling party, wielding more powers than the prime minister.
Suleiman branded Mubarak a corrupt man whose lust for power will for ever tarnish his legacy. He spoke of him as a president whose fate handed him a job he did not try to get – he was vice president when his predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated in a 1981 military parade. "But he refused to willingly relinquish power in response to the will of his own people, so it was forcefully taken from him."
He said Mubarak put his own interests ahead of the nation's and allowed his family and a coterie of aides to dictate policy to him during the last 10 of his 29-year rule. He did not learn from what happened to his predecessor, said Suleiman. Mubarak was seated next to Sadat when he was gunned down.
Suleiman singled out Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, for being one of the main advocates of Gamal Mubarak to be president.
"His wife wanted to be the mother of the next president after she has been the president's wife," he said. "They did not realize that Egypt was not a fiefdom."
Suzanne Mubarak was briefly arrested last year for corruption, but her brief time in detention was spent in a hospital. She was freed after she paid back state funds she was accused of embezzling, according to an official account.
Mubarak was succeeded by military generals beholden to the former leader for their ascent through the military ranks. They are led by a general who served Mubarak for 20 years as defense minister. Many within the protest movement behind Mubarak's ouster believe the former president and his two sons were only arrested and put on trial after a series of massive protests to demand the three be held accountable.
Suleiman's harsh comments may be intended to reassure some in the protest movement that the generals were serious about bringing Mubarak and his two sons to account.
However, many activists still suspect the generals were seeking to hijack the revolution, discredit the youth groups behind it and find a way to perpetuate the military's hold on power even after the election of a civilian administration.
The Mubarak trial, said Suleiman, "ushers the end of a long era of tyrannical rule, a time when the ruler took himself to be a substitute for the people and to be above the law. Our case takes the nation and the entire region to new horizons where the ruler metamorphoses from a tyrannical and brutal pharaoh to a mere human, and what applies to the people applies to him."