A country divided – Mubarak trial reveals rifts in post-revolution Egypt

In front of the courthouse where former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stands trial. Photo published on Flickr on September 5 by Mostafa Sheshtawy.
 
Tensions ran high as former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s trial resumed for a third session on Monday. Fighting could be heard both within and without the courtroom walls as pro- and anti-Mubarak factions railed against each other – evidence, perhaps, that despite efforts to move forward, Egypt remains divided on the fate of its fallen president.
 
Mubarak has been charged with corruption, embezzlement of public funds, conspiring to kill protesters and “inciting” officers to use live ammunition during the popular uprising that led to his February 11 ouster. Pleading not guilty, the 83-year-old stands trial alongside his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, as well as six former members of his regime, including Egypt’s notorious onetime interior minister, Habib al-Adly. As in past appearances, Mubarak, who has suffered from heart problems and bouts of depression in recent months, arrived in court on a gurney.
 
Mostafa Sheshtawy is an Egyptian blogger who was standing outside the courthouse while the trial was underway.
 
Just like during Mubarak's past two court appearances on August 3 and 15, pro- and anti-Mubarak factions gathered outside of the courthouse. The atmosphere was tense. The Mubarak supporters were protected by the police. When we asked why, the police told us that there were fewer Mubarak supporters and that the majority of them were women. Yet they didn’t stop screaming that Mubarak was a hero, that he was innocent, that he shouldn’t be imprisoned. The anti-Mubarak group countered that the former leader should be hung. That’s how the fighting began. I felt as though the police had sided with Mubarak’s supporters. Several protesters were beaten by the central security forces [anti-riot police]."
 
Security outside of the courthouse.

Photos published on Twitter on September 5 by Mostafa Sheshtawy.
 
The situation inside the courtroom degenerated in equal measure, after an altercation between Mubarak supporters and lawyers for the plaintiffs forced the hearing to be suspended. Four police witnesses took the stand later in the day when the trial resumed but, for the moment, none of them have directly implicated Hosni Mubarak in the deaths of protesters during the country’s January-February uprising. Mubarak’s trial is scheduled to continue on Wednesday.
 
"I wanted to see Hosni Mubarak wearing a prison uniform"
 
Mohamed El Dahshan, a blogger and activist based in Cairo, feels that the country needs Mubarak’s trial to move forward.
 
For me, seeing Hosni Mubarak dressed in a prison uniform was the most interesting part of the trial. I’m thrilled to know he’s been incarcerated. Moreover, it was one of the demands of the revolution that the trial be public. Even though the judge, Ahmed Refat, decided that this hearing should not be broadcast live on television, I’m happy to know the trial took place. Punishing those guilty of murdering protesters is healthy for the country. It allows the victims’ parents to mourn their loss, and it sends a strong message to any future leader – regardless of power, you can be punished for your actions.
 
Yet the revolution’s gains are still fragile. The fighting outside of the courthouse is proof of that. I was very disappointed by the police’s behaviour because it mirrored the kind of response that would have taken place under Mubarak’s regime. The army also doesn’t seem to have changed at all. At first, the supreme council of the armed forces tried to push back the trial. The only reason why we’ve been able to make the former president stand for a civil trial is because we were able to apply so much pressure. In the meantime, however, more than 12,000 civilians have been brought before the military courts to stand for mock trials – they’ve had no lawyers and no recourse.
 
I’m not sure everyone who protested in support of Mubarak yesterday actually liked him. Not everyone is happy in post-revolution Egypt – some have lost their jobs and they say things were better before. But those who present an opposing point of view are not necessarily their enemies.”
 
An injured protester.
 
Photos published on Twitter on September 5 by Farah Saafan.
 
"This is the man who guaranteed us 30 years of peace"
 
Mohamed Adel belongs to that part of the Egyptian population that still supports former president Hosni Mubarak and opposes his trial.
 
I don’t like the idea that an elderly, 83-year-old man like Hosni Mubarak is thus presented before a judge. Even if he is found guilty, he’s too old to go to prison. I haven’t forgotten that he wasn’t always a bad guy. Yes, it’s clear that he did some pretty reprehensible things over the last 10 years or so, such as stealing the people’s money. But I haven’t forgotten that this is the man who guaranteed us 30 years of peace. I don’t think he’s as bad as some people say. What’s more, there are several other countries in the world where one can find people worse than Mubarak.
 
In my opinion, he’s not responsible for the protesters’ deaths. He’s too intelligent to have given such orders to the police. He’s not Bashar al-Assad. The only person responsible for these deaths is the former interior minister, Habib al-Adly.
 
Today, the only thing I wish for is that the entire country turn the page on this chapter of our history. The economy is suffering and what’s most important right now is to work hard. Knowing whether or not Hosni Mubarak is guilty, whether or not he should be judged, is insignificant. We should be concentrating on the country’s future.”
 
A prostester standing in front of the courthouse where Mubarak is being tried. Photo published on September 5 by Farah Saafan.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Cécile Loïal.
 

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