Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into a courtroom cage in a hospital bed this morning to face murder and corruption charges.

If convicted, the 83-year-old could face the death penalty.

Mr Mubarak, looking frail and gaunt and accompanied by his sons, is the first Arab leader to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the Middle East this year.

The prosecutor said Mr Mubarak 'had the intention to kill' peaceful protesters during an 18-day revolt that toppled him on 11 February.

The former president is accused of allowing former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli to use live ammunition on protesters - he has also been charged with corruption and wasting public funds.

About 850 people were killed during the unrest at the beginning of this year.

A military council led by a long-serving defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, took over when Mr Mubarak quit.

It has promised a transition to democracy in the Arab world's most populous nation - a process far from complete.

Mr Mubarak's lawyer asked for Mr Tantawi to be summoned as a witness in the trial, echoing a demand lodged by Mr Adli's counsel, who had also asked for former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and other political and military officials to testify.

The lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, said he wanted to summon a total of more than 1,600 witnesses - a proposal with the apparent potential to turn the trial into an interminable exercise.

Attempts to put Mr Tantawi on the stand could embarrass the military, which had tried to distance itself from Mr Mubarak.

Many Egyptians still revere the army but some protesters say it must also be reformed, faulting its handling of the transition and its vast economic interests in Egypt.

One army officer said Mr Mubarak's trial proved the military's good intentions. 'This step unites the army and the people in building a better system, free of corruption,' he said.

July protests

Protesters had camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square for three weeks in July seeking a swifter trial for Mubarak and faster reforms.

They feared the military council would use Mr Mubarak's illness as a ploy to avoid publicly humiliating the war veteran and ex-president who ran Egypt for 30 years.

A lawyer acting for families of the dead has demanded the death penalty for Mr Adli, who is being tried alongside Mr Mubarak, the ex-president's two sons Alaa and Gamal, and six former officers.

The defendants were all held in a big metal cage, as is customary in criminal trials in Egypt, apart from a Mubarak-linked businessman who is being tried in absentia.

Another lawyer demanded that Mr Mubarak be moved to Torah prison, where the other defendants are held, from a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea where he has been since April.

After the session, Judge Ahmed Refaat said Mr Mubarak would be moved to a Cairo hospital and would have to attend the next session of his trial, set for 15 August. He said the court would reconvene on 4 August in Mr Adli's case.

The trial, televised around the world, has transfixed Egyptians and other Arabs - but sparked clashes outside the courtroom.

Pro and anti-Mubarak protesters faced off for a time this morning, some hurling stones.

The state news agency said 53 people had been wounded in the clashes.