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The 'big five' witnesses in Mubarak’s trial: What will they say?

The testimonies of Field Marshal Tantawi and four other top figures, to be given in camera, are unlikely to either fully exonerate nor incontrovertibly condemn the ousted president

Dina Ezzat , Monday 12 Sep 2011
Hosni Mubarak
In this still image taken from video, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak (2nd L)and Vice President Omar Suleiman (2nd R) hold a cabinet meeting in Cairo, January 30, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)
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The testimonies of “the big five” in the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, which the Cairo Criminal Court trying the case was due to begin hearing on 12 September have been put off till later in the month, starting with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council and minister of defence, on 24 September.

This is to be followed by testimonies from Chief of Staff Sami Anan, former vice president and chief of intelligence Omar Suleiman, former interior minister Mahmoud Wagdy, and current Interior Minister Mansour El-Essawy.

The court has ordered that the sessions in which they will testify are to be held off camera, with only defendants, witnesses and lawyers in attendance.

What will they say?

Ahram Online spoke to informed sources of what to expect when the big five finally enter the witness box.

The overall assessment: The testimonies will not get Mubarak off the hook but are unlikely to directly incriminate him.

Ahram Online is disclaiming any responsibility for the accounts of the sources, who predictably spoke on strict condition of anonymity.

Below, Ahram Online provides, based on its research, a list of some of the salient points expected in the Big Five testimonies.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi:

Was aware of the growing sense of public resentment over the management of state affairs and the increasing influence of some members of the business community;

Was aware that the likelihood of the dynastic succession scenario was giving rise to growing public resentment and had expressed disapproval of that scenario being put into effect;

When the demonstrations started on 25 January, suggested that the protests might escalate;

Attended several crisis management meetings at the offices of the presidency and expressed an urgent sense of discomfort over the reaction to the escalating protests;

Was asked by the president if the army was ready to intervene if the situation deteriorated beyond the control of the police forces, offering a positive reply while making it absolutely clear that the army was not willing to enter into a confrontation with the people, and would not, under any circumstances, shoot at the demonstrators;

This position was not my own alone; it came in the light of discussions with other members of the Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces and with other top generals;

The army's main mission when they were deployed on the streets of the country was to protect important public and private buildings, since there was concern over possible arson and plunder;

Attended a meeting on the possible measures to contain the demonstrations, but was not party to the decision to cut off Internet and mobile services;

Was not informed by the minister of interior when the decision was taken to cut off the connection;

Disagreed with the ousted president on how to handle the situation and aware that Mubarak was leaning towards making some crucial changes at the leadership of the armed forces, but this plan was not executed due to the unified stance of SCAF on providing protection for the protesters;

Did not order the intervention of the army on 2 February because the firm resolve of the armed forces command that the troops will not be used to attack citizens;

Took all the necessary measures to prevent any intervention of the army against peaceful demonstrators and prevented any attempt to influence anyone to do otherwise;

Was not aware of all the details of the encounters between the president and his minister of interior at the time;

Towards the end of the 18-day uprising, told the president the time had come for a major sacrifice for the sake of the nation's security;

 

Chief of Staff Sami Anan:

Was summoned from the US upon the direct orders of the president;

Was informed by the president's chief of staff that the mission in the US has to be interrupted;

Was told by the president in Cairo that the army is to be put on stand-by and that all scenarios need to be examined;

Was aware by way of conversation of the unease within the armed forces of being dragged into a confrontation with the people over demands that many in the army found legitimate;

The overall position of the army was summed up in Communiqué number 1, issued by SCAF in which the military command openly declared its support for the legitimate demands of the protesters;

Was aware that the army was disturbed over the killing of peaceful demonstrators during the first few days of the revolution;

Was not aware of any details of plans presented by the minister of the interior to the president with respect to the escalation of the use of force against protesters, but was aware that the interior ministry was having a hard time containing the protests, and that the army would need to intervene at some point;

Cannot confirm that the president gave any direct orders on the handling of demonstrations but was aware that he was receiving assurances that the protests would be contained;

Towards the end of the 18 days, there was a growing sentiment within SCAF that matters were getting out of hand, and that a showdown was bound to conclude in the president succumbing to the will of the people;

 

 

Head of Intelligence, Omar Soleiman

 Warned repeatedly of the public’s frustration over the growing social inequities, and the increasing likelihood of the dynastic succession scenario;

Was not at all in support of dynastic succession, and on 23 January put forward a proposal of a certain political position to send a positive message to the people;

Was aware that large-scale protests were possible, but there was no prediction of the massive scale of the protests that actually materialized across the nation;

Warned of the outrage that permeated Suez following the killings that occurred there on the first day of the revolution and sent detailed reports to that effect to the presidency;

Not aware whether the president actually read this or previous and subsequent reports;

Not cognizant of whether the president was exactly aware of the volume of causalities or the details of the circumstances of the killing of demonstrators, or for that matter, the different cases of those killed in the peaceful protests and others who were killed while trying to attack police stations;

Suggested a package of reforms to be implemented by the president including political reforms, the appointment of a vice president and the public announcement that Gamal Mubarak would not be running for president and that Mubarak himself was not planning to seek another term in office;

The president reluctantly agreed;

The president was influenced by the advice of some aides who offered him inaccurate accounts of the developments and who tried to eliminate the possibility of reform;

Was met with furious reaction from some within Mubarak’s immediate circle, upon putting forward the suggestion that the president should step to step down;

The ministry of interior did not offer the details of the attempt on my life during my days as vice president;

There were some at the ministry of interior who were acting upon orders that were not coming directly from the president but from some of those around him.

 

Mahmoud Wagdi, Former Minister of Interior

 Was not aware and was never informed of any direct orders that came from the president to shoot at the demonstrators;

Information available during the first few days of the revolution indicated that most of the killings occurred when some angry demonstrators were trying to attack police stations and other buildings affiliated to the ministry of interior;

Information available indicates that the use of live ammunition was only applied in cases where demonstrators tried to attack police stations and to seize arms from these stations;

Have no information as to who had allowed the escape of thousands of criminal prisoners;

The actual control of the situation on the ground was largely at the hands of the armed forces and not the police as of the evening of 28 January;

Not aware of orders issued directly for police officers to abandon their points of service, but aware that when the generals were calling the central command for instructions about how to proceed they were told that the minister of interior at the time, Habib El-Adly, had been put under house arrest by the army.

 

Mansour El-Eissawy, Current Minister of Interior

No available accounts or records of the meetings of El-Adly and his aides on the eve of, and during the days of the revolution to testify as to orders on the use of force;

Police officers say that all their actions were instructed by top police generals and that they only used live ammunition when instructed to do so – either in cases of self defense or in case of defending the buildings of the ministry of interior or other public property;

There is no sniper unit under the command of the ministry of interior, but there is evidence that some snipers were hired by some private security companies to execute missions at the order of some;

Cannot confirm or deny that El-Adly was aware of the details of all the killings, but he must have been aware of at least of those that occurred in the cases of defending the police stations.

 

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