When Hosni Mubarak's long-awaited corruption and murder trial began this week, it immediately turned into a spectacle. The nation watched on TV, transfixed as boisterous lawyers disrupted the proceedings and a defiant Mubarak, who is believed to be suffering from stomach cancer, watched quietly from a hospital bed in the defendant's cage. Here are four details that contributed to the unexpectedly chaotic atmosphere:
1. An unexpected ringtone
Mubarak, 83, didn't say much in the opening days of his trial. On Day 1, however, he did tell the judge, "I am here, your honor," and "I completely deny all these charges." The statements were recorded and instantly became wildly popular, downloadable cellphone ringtones.
2. A scrum of angry lawyers
No fewer than 30 lawyers representing the families of dead protesters were allowed into court on the first day. Another 130 attorneys were denied entry and lingered outside. Those inside rushed to speak to the judge, resembling "a scrum on a rugby field," according to the Los Angeles Times. One demanded compensation from Mubarak because God says in the Koran that Egypt is supposed to be a safe place. Judge Ahmed Rifaat finally got fed up and said, "Leave the mic and go sit, all of you."
3. A wild conspiracy theory
One lawyer advanced the rather fringe theory that Mubarak wasn't even in the courtroom. The man lying in the hospital bed that was wheeled into the dock is, the lawyer said, merely a lookalike or clone of Egypt's hated despot. The real Mubarak, the lawyer claimed, died in 2004, and the court appearance is part of a conspiracy by the U.S. and Israel. The crack attorney requested DNA tests to get to the bottom of the issue.
4. A puzzling defense
Mubarak's lawyer said his client wasn't even in charge when the protesters were killed, so he couldn't have given the order to shoot them. Then-defense minister Hussein Tantawi, now the country's de facto ruler, secretly took over as Egypt's leader on Jan. 28, the lawyer said, so if anyone was responsible for the violence, it was him. Mubarak's lawyer wants to call 1,631 witnesses to prove Mubarak's innocence.