The “trial of the century”, so dubbed by the Egyptian media, was last Sunday adjourned to 14 September. This is the trial of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who stepped down in February 2011 on the heels of an 18-day popular uprising
The “trial of the century”, so dubbed by the Egyptian media, was last Sunday adjourned to 14 September. This is the trial of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who stepped down in February 2011 on the heels of an 18-day popular uprising.
The 85-year-old Mubarak, his two sons Gamal and Alaa, and his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, are being tried on charges of instigating murder of over 800 people during the 2011 pro-democracy uprising.
The court ordered the formation of three different committees to inspect new evidence the prosecutors claim to have found against the defendants. One committee is to inspect evidence relating to corruption charges, another will inspect charges related to selling gas to Israel at below-market-prices, and the third will examine evidence relating to the killing of protesters.
Mubarak had been sentenced to life in prison in June 2012 for complicity in the killing of protesters, but a higher court ordered a retrial for lack of incriminating evidence.
Mubarak out … Mursi in
Adjourning the trial, however, was not the issue. What brought on huge controversy was his release from prison on grounds that he had spent more than the constitutionally-stipulated 24-month maximum period in custody. Exercising the emergency law now in effect, interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi ordered Mubarak to be placed under house arrest. By his choice, he is now being held at a military hospital in Cairo. Once the court order was pronounced, Mubarak was warmly congratulated by his sons. Outside the courtroom, hundreds of supporters greeted the news with joy and ululations. The former president was moved to hospital by military helicopter where his wife Suzanne and his daughters in law were waiting for him. Some 35 bouquets of flowers had been sent by well wishers to congratulate him. His grandchildren Omar, 10, and Farida, 3, came to see him.
The controversy was fired by the fact that, as Mubarak left prison, the previous Islamist president of Egypt, Muhammad Mursi; and the Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat al-Shater and others were put behind bars.
Ra’fat Fouda, professor of public law at Cairo University, told Watani that house arrest for Mubarak was important for national security. House arrest, Dr Fouda says, is usually at the individual’s house and at his own expense, but Mubarak suffers from poor health which requires him to stay in hospital.
What counter revolution?
The strategy expert General Alieddin Zein al-Abideen who talked to Watani said that, despite western allegations that Mubarak’s release was a result of ‘counter-revolution’, his release had actually been expected even while Mursi was still in office, since it was based on a legal stipulation. The current political leadership had nothing to do with the work of the prosecution or the court.
“What counter-revolution?” said the lawyer, human rights activist, and director of the Voice of the Victims human rights organization in France Hanaa Ramzy, who talked to Watani. “The goal of the revolution on 30 June was clear and explicit: to topple Mursi. But the subsequent Islamist atrocities; the killings, the fires, the assault of police stations and prisons, were all déjà vu during the 2011 uprising which led to the stepping down of Mubarak. If anything, the recent Islamist atrocities proved beyond doubt that it was the Islamists who had committed the same crimes back in 2011, not Mubarak. They effectively clear Mubarak of the allegations against him.”
Kamal Sultan, head of the legal institution and expert at the International Council for the Muslim World, told Watani, “There is no connection of any kind between the imprisonment of Mursi and release of Mubarak. This is rumoured on some western fronts in a desperate attempt to rally public opinion in the West against Egypt, by making the [false] claim that the country is going back on whatever ‘democratic’ change it had taken.
Islam al-Katatni, a leading MB member who has now left the group, confirmed to Watani that the decision to release Mubarak did not come out of the blue; it was anticipated a some weeks ago; at that time Mursi was in office.”
Islamists were, predictably, critical of the release. The spokesman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the MB, Ahmed Radwan; said that it was expected that “Mubarak’s police State would make a comeback once the ‘coup’ took place”.
Khaled Hanafi of the Cairo FJP in Cairo said that, after Mubarak’s release, “the January 2011 Revolution has been stolen from us and from all Egyptians.”
Jokes, anger, and praise
The social media, prominently Facebook and Twitter, brimmed with comments on the former president’s release.
One ironic remark said: “History will always remember that we lifted up Mubarak, cleaned under him, and put him back again.”
Another blogger mockingly imagined the 85-year-old Mubarak saying: “I did not intend ever again to run for president; but now I do”.
“The Muslim Brothers are now in prison; ElBaradie in Austria; Mubarak is out. Back to Square One.” In a sarcastic tone, one advised Mursi to seek the help of the lawyer Farid al-Deeb, Mubarak’s lawyer.
Some joked that Mubarak should bring charges against all Egyptians for false claims against him. “They’d all go to prison and he would be the only one out.” If every Egyptian who falsely accused Mubarak is made to pay a PT25 (some 3.4 cents) fine, Mubarak would be richer than Prince al-Waleed Bin Talaal.
In a video clip, Egypt’s first satirist Bassem Youssef congratulates Mubarak for his release, and for the failure of “that thing called the revolution”.
No less than 50 per cent of the comments on the news of the former president’s release were angry at his release, describing him as killer and thief, and promising him hell in the afterlife for his ‘crimes’. The other 50 per cent praised his honour and fortitude, wished him acquittal of the charges against him, and thanked him for stepping down back in 2011 in order to save Egypt from bloodshed. Indifferent comments were rare.
“Sorry, Mr President,”
The Facebook page created by Mubarak loyalists Asfeen ya Rayess (We’re sorry, Rayess)—Rayess is an Egyptian word that incorporates the meanings of leadership, respect, honour and, in this case presidency—posted “It has become clear to all that Mubarak and his family underwent huge injustice and slander. The former president took it patiently and calmly, with grace and honour; he did not oppose any judgment against him, nor did he use violence or terrorism against Egyptians as the ousted president Mursi did.
“Mubarak was released according to the law, he has been acquitted of a number of the charges against him, and will be acquitted of the others.”
The Mubarak loyalists condemned claims made against the former president by the grassroots movement Tamarud which had rallied for the 30 June Revolution. They claimed the leaders of the movement were given to arrogance and vanity, imagining they were the movers and shakers in Egypt.
Tamarud had issued a statement in which it vowed to hold a trial on its own for Mubarak. Asfeen ya Rayess retorted that the movement had yet to rally enough Egyptians to condemn Mubarak. “Mubarak has been redeemed by what happened in Egypt since he stepped down. Egyptians now know his real worth. It is not for nothing that they yearn for if only ‘a day under you, Mubarak’.”
27 August 2013