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
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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid