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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hosni Mubarak’s historic trial and Egypt’s unfinished revolution

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak’s trial is really historic and very important event not only for Egypt, but for the whole Arab world, and this trial was one of the demands of January 25 Revolution and became a great test for Egypt’s SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) – de facto the ruler of transitional period – and for Egyptian judiciary as well. Can the new ruling power bring the long awaited justice for the people demanding it? This historic trial was called by many “The Trial of a Century”. Hosni Mubarak is actually the first ousted leader of Arab country who was brought to justice by his own people and was tried in his country and in front of his people with the court sessions being aired live on TV (Tunisian ex-President Ben Ali was tried in absentia).

The charges
Little boy selling the flowers and Mubarak's graffity in Cairo

After January 25 Revolution the people were demanding to try Mubarak and all those responsible for protesters’ deaths and wanted to get justice, and finally in late May 2011 the Prosecution referred Hosni Mubarak and two his sons to trial. Mubarak’s Interior Minister Habib El-Adly and another six officers were charged earlier.
Egypt’s ex-President Hosni Mubarak was accused of killing the peaceful protesters during  January 25 Revolution, on January 25th-30th 2011. He was charged under the Article 40 of Egypt’s Criminal code (inciting a felony). Hosni Mubarak was accused of giving the orders to use live ammunition against peaceful protesters, which led to deaths of more than 800 people and to thousands of injured, and those orders make him criminal responsible for those deaths, according to the prosecution. In this case Hosni Mubarak is co-accused with his former Interior Minister Habib El-Adly and six of his aides, high ranking officers.

Another lawsuit Mubarak is facing is corruption, money laundering and alleged acceptance of money bribes from the prominent Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem, who himself is charged with bribery too and tried in absentia as he fled Egypt during the Revolution.
Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also on trial, accused of profiteering from their father’s position and accepting bribes too.

Mubarak’s former Interior Minister Habib El-Adly and six officers being on trial too are also accused of failing to protect the public and private property during the protests.
The murder charges carry to long prison term and even to death penalty, which was demanded by the prosecution, and the corruption charges carry sentences from five years in prison.

The trial

Mubarak’s trial began on August 3rd 2011 with a massive media coverage, and thousands of people were following this historic event both in Egypt and in the world. The defendants appeared in the courtroom, and the first session of the process was started. There were three judges to hear the case with Ahmed Refaat as a Presiding Judge. Hosni Mubarak and his sons were represented by a prominent attorney Farad Al-Dib.
The families of victims and the supporters of the revolution gathered outside the building of Police Academy, where the hearing were held, chanting for revolution and against the regime and demanding justice. Then the clashes between them and the supporters of Mubarak erupted.
Hosni Mubarak during the trial

The court sessions were televised, so all the people in Egypt and in the world could see the historic trial live. The first day was very dramatic, with Mubarak’s appearance together with his co-defendants in the iron cage. He was denying all the accusations against him, as well as all another defendants. On the next day the criminal court headed by Ahmed Refaat began to review and analyze the massive evidences in the case of killing protesters presented by the prosecution. The defense team should learn all those evidences, so the session was adjourned. The next hearings were very chaotic and tense, so the sessions were suspended a few times due to disorder in the courtroom provoked by lawyers trying to present their demands to the court, while Mubarak supporters clash again with the revolutionaries and victims’ families outside the courtroom. So the Judge Ahmed Refaat orders to stop the broadcasting of the sessions, and all the next hearings were holding closed.

During the next weeks of the process the testimonies of dozens of witnesses including the senior security and military officials were delivered. Among the others there were summoned head of the ruling SCAF and current Minister of Defense Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawy, chief of staff General Sami Anan, former head of intelligence and ex Vice-President Omar Suleiman, former Minister of Interior Mansour El-Eissawy and other security officials, all of them were summoned during the closed sessions. The prosecution was demanding death penalty for Hosni Mubarak, Habib El-Adly and six of his aids and the maximum prison term for Alaa and Gamal Mubarak. The attorneys of the defendants were presenting the evidences of their clients’ innocence. Then the trial was suspended for three months due to calls for disqualifying and replacing Ahmed Refaat, but the Presiding Judge remained. The testimonies were concluded in January and followed by the closed statements, and on February 22nd 2012 the investigations were closed by Ahmed Refaat and the verdict to be promised on June 2nd 2012.

The verdict
Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal during the trial

As it was promised the final verdict in the long Mubarak trial was passed on June 2nd 2012. Former Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, ousted by the mass uprising, was convicted of complicity in murder of protesters and of failing to stop their killing during January 25 Revolution and sentenced to life in prison. His former Interior Minister Habib El-Adly was also given a life term in prison accused of killing the peaceful demonstrators. After announcing the verdict Egypt’s General prosecutor ordered Mubarak to be transferred to the Tora prison, as well as the other defendants.
But the corruption charges against Mubarak and both of his sons, Alaa and Gamal, were dropped. Also the six Mubarak aides, high ranking security officers, facing the same charge of killing protesters were acquitted due to lack of concrete evidence against them.
Before passing the verdict Ahmed Refaat delivered a strong speech addressing the Egyptian people and describing Mubarak’s era as “thirty years of darkness” and “nightmare”, that ended only after Egyptians went to the streets and protested demanding justice and their rights and fighting with regime. He told the protesters were demonstrating peacefully, but were met with the excessive power of security forces against them, and Hosni Mubarak and Habib El-Adly didn’t give any orders to stop them and to prevent the killings of unarmed revolutionaries.

This verdict was met with concern, because even in spite of Mubarak and El-Adly were considered guilty and were sentenced to life in prison, another security officials were acquitted of the charges, as well as all other police officers tried before. Meanwhile this verdict could be appealed, and a lot of people are expecting today that in this case Mubarak could be acquitted too, so they didn’t see the justice they demanded.

On June 3th 2012 Egypt’s General prosecutor appealed the verdicts against Mubarak and El-Adly which sentenced them but acquitted Mubarak’s sons and his aides, police officers. The prosecutor ordered to start the appeal procedures and imposed the travel ban on the six officers acquitted before.

Mubarak’s defense team claims they will also appeal the verdict. Both the lawyers of Mubarak’s defense team and the lawyers representing the interests of the victims tell the life sentences could be easily appealed, and that provoked the anger among the people and fear that all the defendants could be considered not guilty and acquitted too.

The reaction

After verdict was passed it was met with a great joy and euphoria by the people gathered outside the courtroom. Egyptians were celebrated that Mubarak was convicted of the killing of protesters, there was a feeling the justice is finally delivered to people. The relatives of those killed or injured during the uprising were very delighted and felt that was finally their victory. But this joy was very short and turned into skepticism and frustration. Some people were hoped the death penalty for Mubarak and for El-Adly and weren’t satisfied with the sentence given to them. But the fact that the cases of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak were dropped, and the six high ranking officers charged of killing protesters were acquitted, sparked the anger among the people. The strong dissatisfaction regarding the verdicts made Egyptians to leave their homes again and to gather in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of people are protesting since Saturday in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Mansoura, Port Said and other Egyptian governorates as well, the sit-ins are organized and more protests are planned, and people are claiming they won’t leave till their demands won’t be met.

The protests started with the mood of unity, the same like it was during January 25 Revolution. But could those protests turn into the second wave of Egypt’s unfinished revolution?

After the first day of protests it became clear that the people started to be divided again, and the demonstrations which were initially the result of dissatisfaction with the verdict of Mubarak trial turned into the protests against SCAF, former regime and Ahmed Shafiq. Tahrir Protestors feel again that the revolution is hijacked, the transition failed under the rule of Military Council. And here Egyptians are divided again: some of them feel it was hijacked by SCAF, since many of the people feel the Muslim Brotherhood was the one who was jeopardizing the Revolution and trying to use its gains for their own purposes. A lot of people see the elections not fair and fraud, and Shafiq’s candidacy raises fears among the people. Some claim there will be the step back and consider Ahmed Shafiq the extension of the previous regime.
Protesters in Cairo

But the demands aren’t still very clear and are yet to be delivered if we are talking about any united demands. The possible second wave of revolution seems to divide people more ahead of the second round of the presidential elections set for June 16th-17th, and many political powers could try to use the current situation for their purposes. A lot of different political groups are present in Tahrir Square and have set up there their camps heading the debates among the demonstrators. Protesters are chanting against the military rule and demanding to form the Presidential Council to rule the country during transitional period. This Council has to be made up of revolutionary presidential hopefuls Hamdeen Sabbahy, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, Mohamed Morsi and Mohamed ElBaradei, who has withdrawn his candidacy from presidential elections and decided to boycott the run off too. The protesters demand SCAF to hand over power to this Presidential Council immediately, to draft the new Egypt’s Constitution and to organize the new presidential elections.

Meanwhile the main contenders in the presidential race are trying to gain more support before the run off. Mohamed Morsi claims he will hold Mubarak in prison forever if he will become the next president, and Muslim Brotherhood demands the retrial of Hosni Mubarak and his co-defendants. Muslim Brotherhood group which has always kind of distanced from the demonstrations turned into the active participant of current protests, calling for the revolution to be continued and the rights to be delivered to people. Mohamed Morsi was calling also for disqualification of Ahmed Shafiq from the presidential race – the call addressed to all those fearing the return of Mubarak’s regime in case if Shafiq will win the elections. This call might reach also to numerous supporters of Hamdeen Sabbahy, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh and other candidates, who were dissatisfied with the results of the first round of elections and demanded to impose the Disqualification law on Shafiq. So such statements made by Morsi could have a great support ahead of presidential election and bring more voices to Islamist candidate.

Ahmed Shafiq declared regarding the verdict of Mubarak that nobody has to be above the law, and the justice must prevail in Egypt. He strikes back on Muslim Brotherhood during his Sunday’s press-conference, telling that the Egypt’s judiciary system, which was blamed for the unjust verdict in Mubarak’s trial and was associated with Shafiq as he is considered to be a part of the previous regime, was the same judiciary system supervising the first stage of elections which brought Mohamed Morsi to the second round. As Morsi is warning the people that Shafiq will be the same as the previous regime, Ahmed Shafiq answered that Muslim Brotherhood will for sure reanimate the old regime if they will come to power. He accused Muslim Brotherhood of cutting the deal with the former regime to win seats in Parliament in 2005 elections and reminded Muslim Brotherhood’s promises after January 25 revolution to contest only 30% of seats in Parliament and the real situation, when they are occupying the majority of seats in Parliament now. Talking about Muslim Brotherhood Ahmed Shafiq stated that they represent darkness and sectarianism and will bring Egypt backwards, because they are only seeking power and domination over their rivals, which won’t bring unity and better future to Egypt. This message would be for sure heard by the voters willing to see Egypt as a civil state. Many fear that Muslim Brotherhood will monopolize all the power in the country and will turn Egypt into religious state. On the subject of retrial and retribution for those responsible for killing the peaceful protesters Shafiq stressed there will be no justice if Muslim Brotherhood will be in power and told that he will guarantee the rights of martyrs. So with his statements Ahmed Shafiq would probably win more votes ahead of presidential race.

So, after passing the verdict in Mubarak’s trial and continuing protests all over Egypt, the country looks more divided, despite tens of thousands gathered in the main squares of Egypt’s cities. The only one thing which is common now is transferring power to civilian rule and demanding justice and the gains of January 25 Revolution, but the prospection is different, and the new spark of protests in Egypt isn’t that united as it was during the revolution which ousted Hosni Mubarak. Political forces seem to be trying to use the current situation to win more support before the elections, and on this stage every Egyptian has to think carefully and to analyze the aims and purposes of any political power making the statements now and to better use mind and not emotions at this stage making the choice for better future for Egypt. After long struggle with the oppression and after January 25 Revolution, which made the people all over the world really proud of Egypt, Egyptian people deserve only the best future.