Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be brought to Cairo to stand trial next week, a top judiciary official said Thursday. It would be the first time he has returned to the capital since he was ousted from power this spring.
Mubarak, 83, faces charges in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the revolution that toppled him. He will be tried, along with his sons and former interior minister, in proceedings set to begin next Wednesday.
Health Minister Amr Helmy declared Mubarak well enough to be moved from the hospital where he has been confined in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.
"Mubarak's health is in an appropriate condition to be tried in Cairo," Helmy told reporters Thursday.
Reports that Mubarak's health was faltering had raised speculation that his trial could be postponed or held in Sharm el-Sheikh. There have been conflicting stories about the state of Mubarak's health, with reports that he has been in and out of a coma, and that he has been fed intravenously after refusing food.
While the announcements made it a certainty that the former leader will face trial in Cairo — likely in a hall in the city's convention center because of the intense interest in the case — an appeals judge must still formally announce the move. But according to Egyptian law, a defendant must physically appear in court.
"Egyptian law stipulates that a judge must hear the defendant's testimony with his own ear, and physically be in the same room as the defendant," Nasser Amin, a lawyer with the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary, told The Associated Press.
Deputy Justice Minister Mohammed Munie told the state news agency MENA that a hall at the convention center, which is normally used for international trade shows and book fairs, is being fitted with chairs, an appropriately sized defendant's cage, and a media pit. He said there would be regulations on who may attend the trial, and that Egyptian police and military will be securing the location for the duration of the trial.
The decision to hold the trial in Cairo instead of the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh may quell the anger of thousands of Egyptians who felt a Sinai trial would mean giving special treatment to the ousted president.
Mubarak is to be tried on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising against him. Going on trial with him are his sons, Gamal and Alaa, charged with corruption; and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, also charged with ordering the killings of protesters.
NPR's Mike Shuster reported from Cairo for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.