Another judgement day for Mubarak Saturday

Ayat Al Tawy , Saturday 29 Nov 2014

File Photo: Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sits inside a cage in a courtroom in Cairo June 2, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

The sight of Hosni Mubarak being wheeled into a courtroom on a hospital gurney at the start of his trial on charges of manslaughter and corruption was a startling experience for millions of Egyptians who had lived through his 30-year rule.

His trial, which began several months after a popular uprising ousted him from power in 2011, is a rarity – a former autocrat facing charges for alleged crimes committed during his rule.

But several years later, unrest and dramatic power shifts have reshaped the political landscape, and the "trial of the century" has dragged on past an initial conviction, a successful appeal and countless sessions.

The verdict in Mubarak’s re-trial on charges of responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the January 2011 uprising is due on Saturday. He and his co-defendants, who include former interior minister Habib El-Adly and a number of other security chiefs, were found guilty at an initial conviction in June 2012 and sentenced to life imprisonment, but appealed successfully. A retrial began in April 2013. Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal are also defendants in the trial, facing charges of corruption.

Those who were initially enthusiastic about the possibility of a conviction are now subdued and pessimistic.

"All [sentences] will be the same. It no longer matters," said Tarek El-Khatib, whose 24-year-old brother was shot dead in the chest on the Friday of Rage, one of the deadliest days during the 18 days of protest against Mubarak in January 2011.

"More than three years of our lives have disappeared while we were chasing a mirage," he said.

A Cairo court late in September delayed the final verdict in the case, with the presiding judge saying that he had not finished reviewing evidence amounting to 160,000 pages for health reasons.

But a judicial source has said "there is no intention, or reason, for another delay" in the coming session, and the verdict would most likely be issued.

The 86-year-old is now serving a separate three-year prison term for embezzlement of public funds. He is serving the sentence at a military hospital on the southern outskirts of Cairo, where he has spent much of his detention. 

A series of acquittals of Mubarak's associates and almost all police officers accused of killings during the 2011 demonstrations have raised fears the former regime is regaining leverage. 

"We wait with much worry and anticipation," said Asaad Heikal, one of dozens of lawyers defending relatives of those killed or injured in the uprising.

"We are hoping for a fitting punishment that achieves justice, not like previous ones of [Mubarak's] entourage…No less than 'rigorous imprisonment' will satisfy  us."

A different political narrative

Mubarak's successor, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown last year on the back of massive protests against his one-year rule.

Some média ourlets has since increasingly depicted the 2011 revolution as a conspiracy involving foreign interests and militants.

"The one I really want to see hung now is Morsi." 44-year old salesman Nader Shawky told Ahram Online.

"Mubarak has already been jailed. It's time to forgive him, he's an old man," he said.

Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders are now facing numerous charges, some of which carry the death penalty.

The police, whose brutality and human rights abuses helped fueled the 25 January revolution, are now lionised as guardians of the nation in the war against Islamists.

"It was a popular revolt, and our sons have paid the price," said Taha, whose 19-year-old son was also shot dead during the Friday of Rage.

"Hussein was not a saboteur or a traitor; he was planning to take part in a march for 10 minutes and get back to studying for his exam the following day, but he died."

Since his trial began, Mubarak has usually been present in the defendants’ glass cage, strapped to a hospital gurney. His camp have stressed that the 86-year-old is suffering from ill health and he has spent much of his time in custody in hospitals.

During his appearances, he has usually said only a few words, confirming his presence or denying the charges leveled against him.

But in a rare address to the court in August, he was given the chance to speak, and confidently defended his record as president, denying he had ordered the "murder of a single Egyptian" and other charges of corruption.

He said his conscience was clear and that history will vindicate him.

Other defendants, including former interior minister Habib El-Adly, also had their defence testimonies broadcast live on TV in recent months.

The defendants’ camps have long argued that Mubarak and his former interior minister are not guilty and the Brotherhood instead are responsible for the deaths.

"I am 90 percent expecting an acquittal of all the accused," Adly's lawyer Essam El-Batawy told Ahram Online.

Exoneration, he says, will please many Egyptians who now understand, following the demise of Morsi, the real perpetrators of the violence, who he said were the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other “foreign elements.”

The defence lawyer said a conviction is not likely. "The judges can either delay the verdict again or acquit the accused", he said.

In case Mubarak is convicted he can reappeal.

Regardless, the families of the victims are not optimistic about a conviction. Hussein’s father, Taha, says he sees no sign that justice will be achieved.

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