Hosni Mubarak's lawyer concluded his defense on Sunday, arguing that the ousted leader should be acquitted of criminal charges because he is technically still the president of Egypt.

Mubarak, who stepped down nearly a year ago, is charged along with his security chief and four police commanders of complicity in the killing of protesters during an 18-day uprising in January and February. They could face the death penalty if convicted. Mubarak and his two sons are facing separate charges of corruption in the same case.

Farid el-Deeb, Mubarak's chief defense lawyer, said during the closure of arguments that spanned five court sessions that Mubarak did not formally resign and should enjoy immunity from prosecution.

He said Mubarak gave verbal instructions to his vice president Omar Suleiman to announce that he was delegating the armed forces to "run the affairs of the nation," something that he said did not amount to a resignation.

"This court is not qualified to try him and he must be acquitted," said el-Deeb, a suave celebrity lawyer.

El-Deeb received a round of applause from other defense lawyers when he finished his statements. Lawyers for the victims responded with chants of, "Execution, execution," and, "Down, down with Mubarak."

Addressing Mubarak, a former air force chief and a decorated war hero who ruled Egypt for 29 years, el-Deeb said: "You, Mubarak, are a wounded eagle in the sky. Don't be sad, be tough, for you are not any better than the Prophet."

He was alluding to the persecution endured by Islam's seventh-century Prophet Muhammad during the early days of his prophecy in what is now Saudi Arabia.

El-Deeb has argued in previous hearings that a 1979 law issued by Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat gave the ousted leader immunity from being tried before a civilian court as a hero of the nation's 1973 war against Israel.

Mubarak and his two sons, wealthy businessman Alaa and one-time heir apparent Gamal, were arrested in April following mass protests calling on the generals who took control of Egypt to detain them and try them. The trial began on August 3.

Nearly 40 stalwarts of the Mubarak regime, including two former prime ministers and several key cabinet ministers and regime-linked businessmen, are currently held in a prison south of Cairo. Some of them have been convicted and are serving jail terms, while others are awaiting trial.

However, activists behind the uprising that toppled Mubarak's regime say the ruling generals, led by the ousted leader's defense minister of 20 years, are not serious about dismantling the former regime.

They say the generals remained beholden to Mubarak, whose consent was essential to their rise through the ranks.

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