CAIRO // Hosni Mubarak was ordered yesterday to stand trial for the killing of protesters, and could face the death penalty.
The decision ends speculation that Egypt's military rulers might spare the deposed former president public humiliation. Mr Mubarak, ousted on February 11 after mass demonstrations demanding an end to his 30 years in power, has been questioned about his role in a crackdown that led to the deaths of more than 800 demonstrators, and has also been investigated for corruption.
The public prosecutor said Mr Mubarak would be tried on charges including "pre-meditated killing", which could be punished by the death penalty. His sons Alaa and Gamal were also referred to the criminal court on the same charges.
What happens in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, will reverberate across a region rocked by similar unrest. Trying Mr Mubarak on such charges may deter other leaders from quitting, analysts say.
The decision was announced days before another planned demonstration in Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising. Activists had called for a big turnout on Friday to demand faster reforms and a public trial for Mr Mubarak and others.
"Every time the youth threaten to go to Tahrir Square again with a huge number of protesters, I think they make some concessions," said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist. Protesters would still rally, he said.
On Facebook, Mahmoud Dahab wrote: "Mubarak has been referred to trial because Friday is approaching. We understand this game."
With Mr Mubarak detained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh rather than prison, many Egyptians had speculated that the military rulers were protecting one of their own. The army has denied this and insists the case is in the hands of the judiciary.
* Reuters, Agence-France Presse