Chaos reigns at Egypt's former minister of interior El-Adly's fourth trial session

Lina El-Wardani , Monday 25 Jul 2011

As the trial of Habib El-Adly, who stands accused of killing protesters, is postponed for the fourth time, those in attendance voice their exasperation

(Photo by Mai Shaheen)

At 7am on Monday 25 July, a long line of policemen and army soldiers and their armoured vehicles stood in front of the northern court at Cairo's fifth settlement, ahead of the forth session of the trial of former minister of interior Habib El-Adly. It was an intimidating scene hardly witnessed even during the 25 January revolution.

It seemed every type of security uniform was present, from the plain black of central security forces to the rearly seen green of special forces. The seemingly endless lines of policemen and police trucks kept increasing, for no apparent reason. However the martyrs' famiies and activist turnout  was much smaller than previous sessions of the trial.

Around ten protesters, mainly from the Kefaya movement, chanted anti-police slogans before the trial started. Among them was Mohammed Abdel Fatah, who lost his nine-year-old son Hassan on 29 January when policemen randomly shot at them while they were going home to the 6th of October city in a taxi.

By the time a hospital finally allowed the boy in, he had already died in his father's arms. "They refused to save his life and when he died thy refused to issue me a medical report saying my son was shot," says a crying Abdel Fatah, holding his son's blood-covered shirt, "Injustuce still prevails; his killers have not been tried yet."

A few steps from Abdel Fatah, journalists lined up to get inside the courthouse. After three hours of waiting and getting squashed against each other, they were finally filed into the courtroom like sardines in a can, only to find Egyptian TV and other media outlet communicating a confirmed announcement that the case will be adjourned. This occurred before a judge had even appeared in the courtroom.

An hour later, the five suspects were led to the cage, including El-Adly, and the trial began. It was a surreal moment. "Can you see him? Is that really him?" a man asked his friend. "Yes that's him in blue," his friend replied, in as much disbelief. No one in attendance could believe they were finally seeing the former interior minister in a cage. After the brief silence and hesitation, people moved to take a closer look or try to take a souvenir photo.

When judge Abdel Salam Gomaa adjourned the court, the angry crowd objected, twice. First when he announced that the case will be joined with that of former president Hosni Mubarak; The crowd corrected him, shouting: "Ousted not 'former'." When he announced the date of the next session, 3 August, people screamed: "Not fair." Others continued to call out: "God is great."

One attendee injured during the revolution was infurated, approached El- Adly and spat on him. Policemen gathered around him and beaten him roughly until he was red and swollen. He was thrown outside courtroom.

"He has every right to be angry and dissapointed. Even though it makes sense legally to combine the cases of El-Adly and Mubarak, it should have been done in the first session. Why wait till the fourth? All these postponements add to the feeling of injustice and loss of trust in judiciary system," says human rights lawyer and monitor Maha Youssef, who also present at the courthouse.

Outside the courthouse, the crowd was getting bigger, with people chanted "Kosa, kosa" (zuchini), the Egyptian expression for corruption and injustice.

Among those displeased with the court ruling are the dozens of injured during the revolution. Mustafa Tawfiq, 55, attending Adly's trial for the first time, was shot in the head and knee on 29 January near the interior ministry as he was transfering medical supplies to the injured in Tahrir square.

"This is not a trial, this is not fair. Seven months is a long time. Where is the justice? This is a scam," says Tawfiq, who has been chasing down paper work to prove his injury and file a lawsuit against El-Adly. for Tawfiq, Abdel Fatah and many present at the courthouse, the only just verdict would be the death sentence.

According to Nader Hashem, one of the suspects' lawyers, this won't be a fair trial. He describes the trial as farcial and says that, in this case, the crowd won't accept that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. "Here it is the opposite, he is guilty even if he is proved innocent," says Hashem, struggling to get inside the courtroom.

Fatemah Mahrousa, the lawyer of other defendants, was upset at the chaos and continued postponement. "It's illegally and wrong for lawyers and the TV to announce the ruling before the judge does. We respect  the judge's verdict, but we are all dissapointed with the continoius delays."

Where the next session will be held has not yet been announced. Although many agree that the decision to combine El-Adly and Mubarak's cases may be a logical and positive one, it has much of its force amid the continous adjournments, which many believe is justice delayed

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