Cairo: Hosni Mubarak`s trial resumed on Monday after dozens of the ousted 83-year-old Egyptian president`s supporters and opponents clashed near the Cairo courtroom before his arrival on a stretcher.
The session started to hear witness testimony to try to determine who gave the orders for the killing of hundreds of protesters in the revolt that ousted the former autocratic leader in February.
The hearing itself was held off-camera unlike the first two sessions which saw Mubarak appearing in court bound to a stretcher and caged, in gripping images broadcast live on television.
Footage on state television showed Mubarak arriving for the hearing at the police academy in Cairo`s outer suburbs in an ambulance on a stretcher, after a helicopter flew him in from hospital.
Before he drew up under heavy security, demonstrators clashed near the courtroom.
"We have not abandoned you," pro-Mubarak protesters chanted, while their rivals, including family members of victims of the deadly uprising, shouted, "Punishment, punishment, they killed our children with bullets."
The MENA state news agency reported that a dozen people were injured in the scuffles, and police made four arrests.
The decision to stop the live television broadcast was taken by trial judge Ahmed Refaat, who was apparently exasperated by the charged atmosphere at the last hearing as an army of lawyers jostled for position.
After two sessions last month, the court on Monday began hearing witnesses to try to determine who gave the order for the shooting of protesters during the January-February revolution.
One witness, a former top police official, told the court that at the onset of the protests in January he heard police generals discussing the dispatch of automatic weapons to quell the anti-regime demonstrations.
But Hussein Saeed Mursi, who headed the anti-riot police`s communications department, said he was not aware that any formal instructions had been given for the use of such weapons.
"I heard officers say that these weapons had been used," he said, adding that police officials also discussed the use of ambulances to carry "weapons and ammunition because police vehicles were being attacked" by protesters.
"The court will hear four witnesses, including the head of communications in the central security force and officers responsible for operations from the same force," the government daily Al-Ahram said earlier.
The court would investigate whether the orders to fire on the crowd were given solely by the interior ministry or if Mubarak was also implicated.
More than 850 people were killed in the 18 days that led to Mubarak`s ouster after three decades in power and thousands more were wounded, according to official figures.
Mubarak`s first dramatic appearance in court on August 3 came as a shock to Egyptians who were glued to watching the proceedings on television, never having believed he would be forced to go on trial.
Former interior minister Habib al-Adli is being prosecuted along with Mubarak, both of whom have pleaded not guilty, for suppressing the popular uprising. Those found guilty for the deaths could face execution.
Mubarak`s sons Gamal and Alaa are being tried for corruption along with their father. They all pleaded not guilty to the graft charges in the first hearing which was held on August 3.
The former president, who suffers from heart problems and depression, is in custody in a hospital near Cairo, while reports that he was also suffering from cancer have been denied.
His sons are being held in the Tora prison complex on the southern outskirts of Cairo.
A wealthy businessman close to the former presidential clan, Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia in the same trial.