News / Middle East

Mubarak Trial - Plain Justice or Sweet Revenge?

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is wheeled into a holding cell in the court room in the police academy on the outskirt of the capital Cairo, where he faces murder charges, August 3, 2011
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is wheeled into a holding cell in the court room in the police academy on the outskirt of the capital Cairo, where he faces murder charges, August 3, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +
Mohamed Elshinnawi

Barely a few months ago it seemed unthinkable that Hosni Mubarak, the president who ruled Egypt unchallenged for 30 years, would ever have to answer for crimes he allegedly committed. Yesterday, the Egyptian revolutionaries who toppled the autocratic ruler earlier this year got their day in court.

Judge Ahmed Refaat, the head of the Egyptian Criminal Court, charged Mubarak with conspiring to kill over 800 protesters and abusing power to amass wealth. The former president pleaded “not guilty.” “I totally deny all those charges,” said the former president.

If convicted of ordering his security forces to kill Egyptian demonstrators to prolong three decades of rule, Mubarak faces 15 years in prison or the death penalty. For abusing power to amass wealth by corrupt means, he and his two sons, who have been named co-defendants, face five- to 15-year sentences.

Burden of proof

But convicting Mubarak may prove challenging. Usama Saraya, former editor-in-chief of the semi-official Al Ahram newspaper and a Mubarak loyalist, argues that it is not clear who gave the orders to crush the protesters.  “It would not be difficult to prove that President Mubarak has not been criminally involved in killing those protesters if the trial maintained fairness,” Saraya said.

Saraya expects that calling such witnesses as Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi would prove that Mubarak is not guilty. He believes, if Tantawi tells the court what took place in the days leading up to Mubarak’s resignation, he will say Mubarak did not give the orders. Tantawi now presides over the ruling military council.

Shady Taha, the vice president of the liberal Al-Ghad Party, disagreed. “I think it will not help Mubarak. It will [work] against him. What we are hearing from the military is that they received orders from Mubarak to shoot the protesters but they did not obey those orders,” he said.

Trial as stepping Stone


No matter whether Mubarak will eventually be convicted or acquitted, some experts say simply putting him on trial is paramount to the revolution’s future.

Habib Nassar is the director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the International Center for Transitional Justice in New York. For him, the trial is a necessity, but he stresses that it has to be a just trial.

“I do believe that in order to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy and the rule of law in Egypt, they need a justice approach not a revenge approach. If the Egyptian revolution wants to break […] with the past injustices, a fair trial and observing due process will be the first step toward democracy,” said Nassar.

Justice versus will of the people


No ruler of modern Egypt has ever been tried before the Egyptian people. Yesterday, Egyptians were able turn on their TV sets and see a once-untouchable president caged, lying flat on his back on a hospital gurney. For Usama Saraya, the former editor, it was an important and telling moment.

“As a person who was engaged in the political life under President Mubarak - whom I support - I was happy to see him in court because his appearance reflected his respect [for the] law and his courage, because he did not try to flee from Egypt or escape his leadership responsibilities.”

Still, Saraya believes that there exists a sharp divide on the Egyptian street over Mubarak’s trial, pointing out that the pitiful setting in which the former leader was observed could actually earn him sympathy and support.

Despite the courtroom drama, Shady Taha of the Al-Ghad Party says most Egyptians do want to see justice done.

“If you [talked to] family members of the young protestors that were killed on the 25th of January, you will not feel any sympathy [toward Mubarak], but putting all the feelings aside, we want to see a fair trial, and that is the position of the majority of the people,”  Taha said.

A warning for other autocrats?

While most revolutionaries in Egypt celebrate Mubarak facing justice, rulers in Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East are certain to take heed. Samer Shehata, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, points out that, after all, Mubarak is the first Arab leader to stand a trial for crimes committed against his own people. That alone, says he, serves as a “terrible precedent for unaccountable dictators, kings and princes.”

Habib Nassar of the International Center for Transitional Justice says that while Mubarak’s trial sends a stern warning to other authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, it is imperative to ensure that Mubarak gets a trial that is fair and conducted according to international standards. Otherwise, he adds, other dictators in the region would be able to dismiss it as political revenge.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 266 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid