During the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak, his sons and senior officials – known in the media as the trial of the century – defence lawyer Farid El-Deeb stood up to rebut the accusations against his client. He denied Mubarak gave any orders or directives to shoot peaceful demonstrators, arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood was the one who killed these protesters. He reminded everyone that Mubarak is a symbol of the glorious October War who did not sell out his country or betray it as others have done. This was all under the assumption that everything that took place was a conspiracy plotted by the US and carried out by the Brotherhood and their allies to harm the people.
A few days later, in his comments to the court former Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly followed the same course and presented evidence, from his perspective, of the conspiracy theory and the responsibility of the Brotherhood for killing demonstrations. Adly asserted he did not issue any orders as Minister of Interior for the use of weapons, neither did the former president. He claimed the most Central Security Forces in charge of securing Cairo on Friday, 28 January, were sanctioned to use was water cannons and teargas, which do not kill but only disperse protesters.
In court, the comments by the prosecution on the defence’s argument focused on the fact that what occurred was a revolt by the people against a president who wreaked corruption, and against an elite who looted, stole and was preparing the son for succession. Thus, the people revolted and overthrew the regime. Naturally, everything that was said in front of the venerable judges included many details, documents and figures.
The general context of such sensational trials that polarise public opinion and touch on matters of fate are a mixture of subjective emotion and objective assessment. Fanatic and extreme opinions are a norm, especially when we are putting the president on trial for the first time in Egypt’s modern history, along with his two sons and a minister of interior who served for a long 14 years in office and was responsible for the security of the regime and society during a difficult and tense period. If we believe the defendant is innocent until proven otherwise, which is a key legal and humanitarian principle, I believe anyone who wants to comment on what the defence or prosecution have said should measure their words and not jump to final or semi-final conclusions. The trial is still in session and the judges have not yet uttered their final judgment.
Personally, I am deeply concerned about opinions that complimented the defence and feel it succeeded in proving the innocence of its client. I am just as concerned, however, about opinions that attacked the defence and believe it undermined the great people’s revolution and therefore should be put on trial. I am also disturbed by those who have exaggeration admiration for the prosecution’s comments and believe it presented irrefutable facts about Mubarak’s corruption and responsibility for the killing of protesters. I believe all these assessments by lawyers, media, journalists and politicians are misguided and hasty, and could have the suspicion – even if indirectly – of influencing the judges on the bench.
This is an unusual and unprecedented trial that primarily focuses on finding who killed protesters on 28 January. This trial is the continuation of the first trial that punished Mubarak, Adly and senior aides for not taking the necessary steps to prevent deaths among protesters. The verdict was appealed, which is why there is a trial today to make a final decision and allow all sides to present their evidence, proof and defence. Thus, it is the right of the defence to say what it wants and the prosecution has the right to say what it wants, and the decision is left to the judges and their conscience.
If we are aspiring for governance based on justice, equity, and absolute truth that pleases God and the conscience of judges and those seeking their rights, no one has the right to malign the defence and its arguments and launch a general debate about these arguments. Neither does anyone have the right to praise the prosecution and its arguments with excessive fervour. Neither is it anyone’s right to take the initiative to file a complaint against the defence lawyer or sue him because he said an opinion that contradicts what we believe.
If anyone does this, in my humble opinion, it simply means aborting the notion of justice itself and flouting the principles governing legal work without which justice cannot be achieved. If lawyers act while knowing they are open to prosecution if they said something that displeases public opinion, they would not fully and comprehensively defend their clients. Thus, their role would become meaningless and everything will be ruined.
Everyone should realise that this is primarily a criminal trial, not a trial to judge the fate of what happened in January 2011, and whether it was a revolution or conspiracy. The fate of what happened at that time will remain the property of the people themselves before anyone else, and will be decided by history after some time.
A few months after the collapse of the Mubarak regime, in the corridors of a prestigious university, I saw someone who is counted in the Mubarak camp. He was questioned by the prosecution about charges of financial corruption, profiteering and other crimes at a time of great turmoil under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and growing popularity of the terrorist group. Out of curiosity, I asked him about his legal position. He said his personal position was well, but the position of the country was not. I asked what he meant; he answered that Egypt was facing extraordinary circumstances and the battle was not over yet. Those who are victorious, or believe themselves to be, still have a long way to prove their victory if it were true. And history will have its final say after some time still.
Anyone who views themselves as an honest guardian of the revolution and Egyptian action, this is the crux of the matter. All Egyptians have the same right; some believe what took place was the epitome of revolutionary action, while others believe it to be the height of conspiracy. Each has their arguments and evidence. The final decision remains with history that has not yet passed final judgment.