The Mubarak trial verdicts: Inside the courtroom

Saturday 2 Jun 2012

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

Hosni Mubarak
Egypt's ex-President Hosni Mubarak lays on a gurney inside a barred cage in the police academy courthouse in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 2, 2012. (Photo: AP)

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.

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