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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le procès de l’ex-raïs a commencé

by Hassane Zerrouky

The Trial of the former Rais has begun

Translated Sunday 7 August 2011, by Elaine Scott and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Deemed as historic, this trial remains that of a man and his accomplices rather than about the system which he embodied and which remains in place today. The hearing has been adjourned until 15th August.

Confined to bed and on a stretcher, the 83-year-old, former President, Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown on 11th February, appeared in court on the first day of his trial, which was broadcast live by state television. Standing at his side, dressed in white, were his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, holding the Koran and trying to appear composed. The accused, appearing in court at the same time as the former Interior Minister, Habib el-Adly and six senior police officers who stood in a separate dock with a wire mesh fence, pleaded not guilty and rejected the charges. “All these allegations, I deny them completely”, Mubarak said. His sons did the same. All are accused of having ordered the shooting of protesters resulting in 840 deaths during the uprising of January and February, the misappropriation of funds and the fraudulent activity relating to the contracts of the gas supply to Israel; all risk the death penalty. The defence lawyers have called as witnesses the head of Egypt’s Higher Military Council, Field Marshal Mohamad Hussain Tantawi, former government and political leaders such as the former intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman, once thought to be Hosni Mubarak’s successor. All of this, only for the presiding judge to announce that the hearing of the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, and his two sons has been adjourned until 15th August. The trial of the former Interior Minister resumed on 4th August.

Egypt is in the process of change

Several lawyers, desperate to be heard, argued over the microphone as to who the next speaker should be, before the presiding judge, Ahmed Al Refaat, ordered them to sit down and wait their turn, otherwise they would be asked to leave the courtroom. During this time, in their caged dock, Mubarak’s two sons put their heads in their hands as they listened to the lawyers, one of whom had accused them of having “sold their souls to the Devil”. They also occasionally exchanged words with their father. From time to time Mubarak, obviously irritated, looked at his watch, apparently thinking the hearing was too long.

The trial, which the Egyptian media have deemed as “historic”, unfolds at the Police Academy, named after the former President, which is situated in the north-east of Cairo. The hearings are broadcast on a gigantic screen for the hundreds of people who did not manage to get into the courtroom itself. Outside, the police had to intervene after some brief but violent clashes broke out between Mubarak’s followers and victims’ parents and friends who had come in droves to attend the trial.

Through this unique trial, the new Egyptian authorities have tried to leave a lasting impression on the people, sending out a strong signal to the sceptical public, but also to the Arab world, showing that Egypt is in the process of change and that the era of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes is over. However, despite an exemplary effort, the trial is still that of a man and his “accomplices” and not that of a political system of unjust, freedom limiting laws, which remains in place. Indeed, some Egyptians are not taken in by it. They know that by subjecting Mubarak to a public opinion fueled by those who do not want things to get out of hand, the new authorities will quickly close this chapter of Egyptian history and move on. It is not clear, however, that the protagonists of the Egyptian uprising agree.

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