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 Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid