The verdict in the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak is expected Saturday, and it's a decision that could profoundly influence the future of Egypt's unfinished revolution. Despite this, many Egyptians are unaware that the verdict is imminent due to the focus on the country's first post-revolution presidential election.
Mubarak, along with former interior minister Habib El-Adly and six of the latter's assistants, are accused of instructing subordinates to fire on unarmed protesters during the 18 days of Egypt's revolution. The ousted president, along with his two sons and runaway businessman Hussein Salem, also faces a host of corruption charges.
What are the charges against Mubarak?
Mubarak is charged with complicity in the murder and attempted murder of hundreds of peaceful pro-democracy protesters in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and other governorates between 25 and 31 January 2011.
He is also charged with accepting a bribe from Hussein Salem, a resort developer, to exploit his influence and facilitate land concessions in Sharm El-Sheikh for a company owned by Salem.
In addition, Mubarak is charged with being an accomplice to the former petroleum minister, Sameh Fahmy, in improperly authorising another Salem-controlled company, the East Mediterranean Gas Company, to export Egyptian natural gas to Israel at artificially low prices, granting an illicit benefit to Salem's company and short-changing the public coffers.
Ahram Online spoke to relatives of protesters killed during the revolution to gauge their views on the trial and Saturday's expected verdict.
The story of a martyr
Abu-Ghenima Abul-Oeyoun, 49, is the father of Mohammed, 20, who was killed in Tahrir Square on 28 January, the so-called Day of Rage that saw the police defeated by tens of thousands of unarmed protesters. Abul-Oeyoun expects Mubarak to be acquitted.
"Lawyers tell us he will be convicted, but with the current situation, and Shafiq's [Mubarak's last premier] sudden emergence to prominence, I don't think so," said Abul-Oeyoun.
"On 25 January, my son Muhammad joined the protest in Tahrir Square. I only found out later and when I tried to stop him going again after Friday prayers on 28 January he insisted. His final words to me were: 'I am not less than the others. For God’s sake if you really love me, let me go'. I opened my mouth but couldn’t find a reply or move my feet to prevent him. I let him go and never saw him again.
"He didn't return home that night, so I looked for him everywhere and searched almost every hospital. Then on Sunday I got a phone call from his own mobile phone telling me the news. He was lying dead in Qasr El-Ainy hospital with a bullet in his head and one in his side.
"His friends said he was in Tahrir Square throwing empty tear gas canisters at the police. Then a friend of his fell to the ground, so my son, who was well built, went to help him. And as he bent to lift him, he was killed instantly by two sniper's bullets.
"When I saw him at the morgue three days later his body was still tender and soft and he had an unforgettable smile on his face."
Abul-Oeyoun attends regular meetings with other martyrs' relatives. They have watched every session of the trial with mounting anger.
"All the policemen on trial for killing protesters are getting let off or receiving light sentences. The latest is Mohammed El-Sunni who earlier received the death sentence but on appeal got five years. If this happens to Mubarak another revolution is coming - a bloodier one,” said Abul-Oeyoun, adding that no one could blame the families of martyrs if they went to Mubarak's hospital bed and took “justice for [their] sons with [their] bare hands.”
For Abul-Oeyoun and the families of over 800 slain protesters, there is only one acceptable verdict: the death penalty.
"This dictator [Mubarak] is guilty of destroying the nation and killing the people – not just the protesters. His corruption and tyranny over thirty years buried us alive.”
People on the streets
When Ahram Online spoke to people in Cairo about the trial, most had forgotten about it and were unaware the verdict was due on Saturday.
Amr Tharwat, a 28-year-old waiter and father of an eight-month-old child, expects a verdict of not guilty and another wave of protests and sit-ins:
"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will protect Mubarak. I feel that he is still in power; he lives like a king in a 5-star spa, whilst the majority of people live in misery. I've started thinking about leaving the country; not for myself but for my child."
Tharwat voted for Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi in the presidential poll's first round and doesn't know what to do in the runoffs.
Heba Kamel, a 42-year-old doctor, expects a guilty verdict and a life sentence, “to absorb the people's anger, give people trust in the military and pave the way for Shafiq, but I expect him to be freed on appeal.”
Baho Abdullah of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party predicts a guilty verdict and a prison sentence of at least ten years to absorb the street's anger and pave the way for Shafiq to the presidency, but later for an acquittal on appeal.
Political activist Akram Youssef agreed with Abdullah that Mubarak would receive a medium to heavy sentence, because, “the army sometimes likes to appear politically correct, like when it let Mubarak’s last vice president Omar Suleiman enter the presidential race then kicked him out at the last minute to show that the state was unbiased and that the law prevails.”
But Youssef said the inconsistency of the SCAF’s decisions leaves the door open for all scenarios.
“He may get acquitted, in which case people will be extremely angry, but they will not express their anger in massive protests because everyone is busy with the elections,” said Youssef.
However, if Mubarak is convicted it could leave the revolutionaries and the people even more perplexed.
"Imagine if he gets 25 years, what is going to happen? The SCAF has all the political keys – the judiciary is not independent and nor is the prosecution and every state institution,” said Youssef.
Amir Salem is a lawyer for victims in Mubarak's case and has attended every session of the trial. When Ahram Online spoke to him in February he was optimistic. The case was strong and the evidence powerful, and the least Mubarak could expect was a life sentence, he said
As the verdict approaches, Salem is no longer confident.
"I only expect a guilty verdict in the corruption and illicit profiteering case, which could result in a three to seven year jail sentence, and he will continue to live in the lavish hospital where he's currently residing," said Salem.
"I'm worried that everyone is busy with the elections and isn't talking about Mubarak's trial anymore," he added.
Salem still thinks the case is strong and prosecution has plenty of evidence:
"As president, head of state, head of the military, head of the police etc, Mubarak was the only one authorised to give orders to kill protesters, followed by the interior minister. Therefore, it's only logical that he is guilty. But I don't think this case is about the law – it is purely political. In the current political situation, the National Democratic Party (Mubarak's party) is back in action and the SCAF is backing Shafiq for president, so it doesn't look good."
However, there is a third possible outcome, according to prominent legal expert Atef El-Banna. "The only logical thing in this situation is for the judge to postpone announcing the verdict until the political situation is stable enough."
According to El-Banna, any legal verdict should not be the prey of political conflict, "and if the judge thinks the verdict can damage the stability of the country he can postpone what many see as a time bomb." Therefore, according to El-Banna's scenario Egyptians will have to wait a little longer to discover the fate of their former president.