Egypt's trial-of-century bombshell: Three accounts
Lina El-Wardani, Yasmine Walli, Nada Hussein Rashwan, Sunday 3 Jun 2012
Courtroom mayhem, post-verdict clashes and the ousted Mubarak's final journey by helicopter to Tora Prison following Saturday's fateful court verdicts

The Mubarak trial verdicts: Inside the courtroom

The mood inside the courtroom was electric during the moments before the judge read the verdicts aloud in Egypt's trial of the century

By: Lina El-Wardani

Journalists and lawyers were let into the courtroom at 8am on Saturday. They waited two and a half hours for proceedings to begin.

Attendees passed the time by making predictions about the verdict and the upcoming presidential runoff. The courtroom was less than quarter full, with the smell of stale cigarettes, sweat and urine making it almost unbearable.

Security was much, much tighter than usual. Policemen flanked each row of seats, with some even standing in front of the judges.

Tension began when a Kuwaiti lawyer on the ousted president's defence team arrived and a number of those in attendance shouted, "Out! Out!"

As court clerks began filing out one by one, bringing in piles of documents and case files, the anticipation mounted.

And when the defendants appeared in the dock, and the judges began coming out, loud shouts could be heard emanating from those in attendance calling for the defendants' execution and justice for the martyrs.

Victims' lawyers began lifting photos of slain protesters in front of the cameras and judges. A few lawyers with long beards raised placards reading, "Execution is the people's verdict," and, "Execution is God's verdict."

Presiding Judge Mohammed Refaat began by demanding silence, threatening to walk out if there were any unsanctioned sounds or movements in the courtroom.

Only then did silence prevail. The judge began by giving a long speech praising the revolution and the "great people of Egypt" who revolted peacefully against tyranny and poverty and were helped by "God and the angels to clear the darkness."

He went on to describe Mubarak's three-decade rule as "thirty years of black; pitch-black hopelessness."

Refaat also spoke about judges' "tireless efforts" in this case, which featured 49 hearings, over 250 hours of court time, and 60,000 documents. He reiterated that judges in the case were unbiased, stressing that the truth was the only standard for their decisions.

He then read out the verdict for the two chief defendants: life imprisonment for Mubarak and his long-time interior minister Habib El-Adly. "God is great!" shouted several lawyers present.

Objections began, however, when Refaat read aloud verdicts concerning El-Adly's top aides. Objections intensified as he read the court's rationale for the verdicts.

As the judges departed the courtroom soon afterward, lawyers began to shout, "The people want an independent judiciary!" and "Down with the regime!"

Some lawyers stormed out of the courtroom at that point, calling for a march on the Egyptian Lawyers Syndicate headquarters. Others called for mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

Judge Maha Youssef almost cried as she told Ahram Online that the ruling would be very easy for Mubarak and El-Adly to appeal.

"The judge provided defendants with a good cause to appeal in the verdict's rationale when he said there was 'no evidence' that they killed protesters, but that they could have prevented the murders," she said. "This would be a piece of cake for any lawyer to appeal."

This, say observers, could explain why the defendants' lawyers did not raise objections when the judge read out the verdict.

Soon afterwards, a fight erupted between policemen and a journalist who attempted to get a closer look at the defendants sitting in the dock.

Some lawyers loudly called on God to apply justice on "the tyrants who had corrupted Egypt."

As journalists and lawyers began filing out of the courtroom, many speculated that the verdict was political, and had to do with the upcoming presidential runoff vote.

"If the police officers were exonerated for not killing protesters, why were Mubarak and El-Adly found guilty?" asked one lawyer.

As journalists and lawyers left the building, they were warned to protect their heads, as clashes were reportedly erupting outside.

"The country will be on fire now," said one lawyer, stepping outside anxiously.


Outside courtroom, Egyptians react to suprise Mubarak verdict

Final verdicts slapping Mubarak, El-Adly with 10-year jail sentences and exonerating the remaining defendants drew opposite reactions from pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters outside the courtroom on Saturday

By: Yasmin Wali

On Saturday, dozens of Egyptians flocked to the police academy in New Cairo on the outskirts of the capital to hear the final verdict against ousted president Hosni Mubarak, his long-time interior minister Habib El-Adly, and six of the latter's aides.

Security was tight. Areas were designated for Mubarak sympathisers at a minimum of 500 meters away from anti-Mubarak protesters to avoid clashes.

Several ambulances and portable clinics were parked in the vicinity.

Since early morning, stone-faced soldiers had been lined up behind a fence facing the anti-Mubarak group. Behind them, several tanks were deployed.

Mubarak supporters were far fewer in number – about 20 – than the anti-Mubarak group, which numbered in the hundreds.

Anti-Mubarak protesters held Egyptian flags and images of slain protesters aloft, with many chanting and several beating drums.

International media, meanwhile, was everywhere.

The main contingent of protesters numbered in the dozens. They faced security forces, chanting: "Down, down with military rule!" and "Mubarak didn’t have mercy on my son, why should I have mercy on him?"

Most protesters appeared to be of working class origins, including middle-aged men and women, a number of young men, some veiled women and a handful of elderly men, including one sheikh from Al-Azhar.

Several were lying on the ground due to the heat, holding images of slain protesters in silence."Those responsible for killing my son should be killed," said one.

Abdel-Kareem, 27, the brother of a protester killed at the height of last year's uprising, said: "I expect Mubarak will be slapped with a ten-year jail sentence at most; and when Ahmed Shafiq becomes president, he'll release him. We all know that the SCAF [Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] has stolen the revolution and won't bring any justice."

A few steps away from Abdel-Kareem stood Shadia, a 33-year-old woman who wears the Niqab and who lost an eye during last year's revolution. They called out for retribution, along with many other families of slain protesters.

Most protesters expressed the belief that the court verdict would be postponed because Presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat was considered an ally of Mubarak and the SCAF. "What can we do? We can only hope, pray and come here and witness the verdict," said one.

Aside from the main protest, a gaggle of teenage boys began chanting and playing music with drums. "Revolution from the start, until you wear the red prison suit and die," they chanted.

Mubarak supporters, meanwhile, stood close to the academy entrance surrounded by security forces.

Nora, a veiled 30-year-old Mubarak supporter, looked extremely upset. Next to her, Amany, 16, recites words from the Quran, imploring God to help Mubarak.

"It was external forces, like the April 6 youth movement, that destroyed Egypt," she said. "We didn’t have one day of insecurity before the revolution happened. We love our president, that's why we came."

Mustafa Fawaz, a farmer, said of the deposed president: "He's an 85-year-old man; we should have mercy on him. For the past ten years we've been hearing that he's almost dead. How can we send him to trial now?"

When Judge Refaat read the verdict aloud, Mubarak supporters tensed up. Fearing clashes, they called each other from the streets to enter their designated secure areas.

The anti-Mubarak group was much more relaxed. They prepared tea and sold sandwiches as people gathered to hear the verdict. Some raised their hands to the sky, praying to God. Others lined up in the street to hear the verdict from a police car.

When the judge finally announced Mubarak's verdict, protesters and the families of slain protesters outside the courtroom shouted "God is great!" and "The martyrs' blood wasn't spilt in vain." Men and women prostrated themselves on the ground, thanking God for the verdict. They huggedeachother with tears in their eyes.

"This is Egypt; this is Egypt’s judiciary system," they shouted, some dancing with joy.

But the situation quickly turned ugly when verdicts were read for Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Alaa, and El-Adly's six assistants, all of whom were acquitted.


After verdict, Mubarak finally transferred to Tora Prison hospital

Ousted president transferred from international hospital to Tora Prison hospital on Saturday to serve out life sentence

By: Nada Hussein Rashwan

After three hours of refusing to disembark from his helicopter, ousted president Hosni Mubarak – who had just received a life sentence by a Cairo criminal court – finally gave in to his new reality and entered the Tora Prison hospital on Saturday, where he will be monitored by the hospital's intensive care unit.

Following the announcement of the verdict, the ousted president – still wearing his trademark sunglasses – was wheeled out of the courtroom. At around 11:40am, the helicopter landed at Tora Prison following the conclusion of a trial – dubbed Egypt's 'trial of the century' – that began back in August.

"He was crying and wouldn't get out of the helicopter. Security officials spent some time convincing him to get out. He's now convinced and will be entering the prison shortly," AFP quoted a security official as saying.

At nearly 2pm, state television reported that Mubarak had suffered a "critical health situation" onboard the helicopter and was receiving treatment.

Ever since the trial began, Mubarak has been held inside the International Medical Centre (IMC), a medical facility run by Egypt's armed forces on the outskirts of Cairo, to and from which he had been transported to the courtroom.

But today, instead of heading back to the IMC, the helicopter headed toward Tora Prison on Helwan Road, across town from the court building. Immediately after the verdict was read, Egypt's prosecutor-general ordered that Mubarak be transferred to Tora Prison to serve out his prison term.

For Egypt's parliament, the decision to move Mubarak to Tora Prison is long overdue. The Islamist-led People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament), elected late last year, has consistently demanded Mubarak's transfer to Tora, charging that the deposed head of state was receiving preferential treatment at the IMC.

Egypt's interior ministry, however, had responded that Mubarak's healthcare requirements were beyond the capabilities of the Tora Prison hospital, which, it claimed would require renovations before receiving him.

In mid-February, parliament officially decided to transfer Mubarak to Tora, but it was not until April that the interior ministry announced that necessary renovations had been carried out. Even then, the 83-year-old was not transferred out of the comfortable IMC.

As Mubarak was finally moved into his new quarters in Tora Prison on Saturday, thousands of demonstrators countrywide took to the streets to protest the verdict, which also acquitted six interior ministry officials charged with killing unarmed protesters.

The head of Alexandria's court of appeal explained that Mubarak and former interior ministry Habib El-Adly had been convicted of "inciting" the murder of protesters, but stressed the lack of evidence in this regard.

As of press time, the number of protesters on the streets was growing, as several prominent political groups announced their endorsement of the mass protests.