Pro-Mubarak protesters demand his release

CAIRO, June 24, 2011 (AFP) - Around 200 people gathered in central Cairo on Friday to demand the release of former president Hosni Mubarak who is in custody on charges of killing protesters and fraud, an AFP photographer said.

Carrying pictures of the 83-year-old strongman, the crowd protesting in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Mohandesseen called for Mubarak's immediate release and a ceremony to honour his "service to the country."

"Mubarak, the country is collapsing without you," they chanted, as passers-by hurled insults at them for supporting the ousted leader.

Mubarak is being held at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he was taken after he reportedly suffered a heart attack during questioning.

He is to face trial on August 3, along with his two sons Alaa and Gamal, on charges of ordering the killing of anti-regime protesters and for abusing their position for economic gains.

Earlier this week, Mubarak's lawyer Farid al-Dib told AFP that the former president was suffering from stomach cancer and that "the tumours are growing."

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which took power when Mubarak stepped down in February had repeatedly said it was preparing his transfer from hospital to prison, but on May 31 the public prosecutor said the former leader was too ill to be moved.

Until the outbreak of anti-government protests on January 25, Mubarak seemed insurmountable as president of the most populous nation in the Arab world, backed by the United States and the military, from whose ranks he had emerged.

The spectacular fall in February of one of the region's most powerful leaders after 18 days of nationwide protests was followed by repeated calls for his trial.

An official inquiry found that at least 846 people were killed in the protests, many of them from gunshot wounds. At least 6,000 were injured.

The murder charges may lead to a death sentence if Mubarak is found guilty, the justice minister said in May.

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