"It would be interesting to watch on TV, but this trial reminds me of the World Cup Finals qualifiers. Whenever we are close, we lose," is how Ahmed Fouad, a taxi driver, sees the trial of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, due to commence in a few days.
Fouad, speaking on a hot summer crowded noon, insists that he speaks for many, or not most Egyptians, when he says he believes the ousted president will not be put on trial.
On 3 August, Hosni Mubarak his sons, Alaa and Gamal, along with his former minister of interior, Habib El-Adly, and six of his assistants are due to face charges that could lead to a death sentence if the court finds them guilty. Killing peaceful protesters in the first days of the revolution is not the only accusation against the ousted president, but it is the one being followed most by the man in the street.
"I really don't care about seeing him in cage, but I think it is the right of the families of the martyrs," says Fouad.
Why does he feel that this will not happen?
Since Mubarak was toppled nearly six months ago he has been held in detention, but never inside a prison. Meanwhile, reports on his deteriorating health are everywhere in the media. After a week of calming people down and setting the stage for Mubarak’s trial, conflicting reports are bringing hopelessness again to Egyptians.
One of these reports was the announcement of the head of Mubarak’s medical team, Assem Azam, on Saturday that Mubarak’s health won’t allow him to go to court. This came after last week’s announcement by Health Minister Amr Hilmy that Mubarak is fit enough to be transferred to Cairo from his hospital bed in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
Also, the trial’s venue was changed Saturday. It has been moved from the Cairo International Convention Centre to the city’s Police Academy, for reasons of security, informed sources said. Last week, Deputy Justice Minister Mohammed Munie declared that the trial would happen in Cairo at the Cairo International Convention Centre according to schedule.
Unsurprised, if disillusioned, most Egyptians harbour extreme doubts about the trial because of official statements like this by Ahmed Refaat, head of the Criminal Court, who will preside over the case of the killing of protesters during the revolution: "Egyptians should calm down and stop asking about the location of Mubarak’s upcoming trial scheduled for 3 August.” Refaat made the comment during a phone call with Masr El-Gedida talk show on the independently owned El-Hayat 2 channel Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the lawyer of Mubarak told the media that his client's health was deteriorating and that he had went into a coma. Then Mubarak raised the stakes further by embarking on a hunger strike for almost a week, worsening his health condition, his medical team reports. Mubarak takes liquids but no solid food.
The reportedly fragile state of Mubarak’s health kept him from attending his first scheduled trial hearing in April. It was said that he was suffering from heart problems; accordingly the trial was postponed for four months. Till when could the trial be legally postponed?
“There is no maximum period for postponement, it all depends on the judge’s decision,” leading lawyer and expert in criminal law, Bahaa Eddin Abu Shoqa, told Ahram Online. In addition, the defendant's lawyer can gain a postponement by asking for additional documents or the calling up of new witnesses.
A very real concern is whether the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is ready to see their former head sent for trial at the age of 83. Indeed, many judge that SCAF has only continued to take action on the Mubarak trial issue because of people pressuring it to.
Hundreds of revolutionaries have been staging a sit-in at Tahrir Square since 8 July. Among their demands is the swift trial of the toppled president along with corrupt figures of his regime. In the face of inaction on this front some revolutionaries have been calling for dissolving the SCAF, headed by Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, as they believe that it is protecting Mubarak.
The latest decision will see the trial broadcast live on state TV — the third live broadcast of the trial of a figure of the former regime since the Egyptian Revolution, during which approximately 900 were killed.
Regarding El-Adly, he has already been convicted on separate corruption charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison. He has yet to be tried over the deaths of protesters.
When Mubarak was toppled on 11 February 2011, he had been in power for 30 years.