The trial of Hosni Mubarak: Revolutionary justice or 'revolutionary crack'?
Police stand guard Monday outside court in Cairo as they watch the televised trial of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
August 15th, 2011
02:36 PM ET

The trial of Hosni Mubarak: Revolutionary justice or 'revolutionary crack'?

“I hope they hang Mubarak today,” my neighbor told me, by way of a morning greeting.

These are strange times in Egypt.

With sporadic breaks, I’ve spent most of the last six months with my head buried deep in the sands of Libya, but now I’m back in Cairo, my home, on the day when deposed President Hosni Mubarak made his second appearance at a trial held in what, not long ago, was the Mubarak Police Academy. Now it’s simply the Police Academy.

Modern Egypt’s longest ruling leader, a man once dubbed “the Pharoah,” is behind bars in the defendant’s cage, where so many of his critics ended up. Lying on a mobile hospital bed in a dark track suit, his once imperial aura had faded, though not his hair dye. In the cage, he looked more bored than bowed and didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the proceedings Monday.

For decades, Mubarak symbolized the monolithic Egyptian state. He was the aloof, visionary leader who, the state-run media was wont to suggest, saw and understood what the common folk could not begin to comprehend, the towering father figure who knew best, and should be obeyed, and, just as importantly, applauded.

For many Egyptians, however, the 83-year-old president was the out-of-touch, arrogant autocrat sitting atop a pyramid of oppression, corruption, cronyism and brutality.

How much real power the aging, ailing Mubarak had in the day-to-day running of the country is not clear. It was widely believed that powerful figures behind the throne, including former Egyptian spy chief (and very briefly vice president) Omar Suleiman and Interior Minister Habib Adli, were calling the shots.

Likewise, many Egyptians believed Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, and son Gamal were also key power brokers. In minutes from his interrogation leaked to Egyptian media, Mubarak is reported to have said, "No one would have paid any attention to me or my orders" if he had demanded an end to the often violent crackdown on anti-regime protesters this year.

The revolution put an end to Mubarak, but little else has been resolved.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces now runs the show, but all of its members, from its head, Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi, on down rose through the ranks with Mubarak’s blessings and approval. One of the U.S. State Department cables from Cairo released by WikiLeaks recounted that frustrated midlevel Egyptian Army officers referred to Tantawi as “Mubarak’s poodle.”

The Mubarak trial may be, as one human rights activist recently described it, “revolutionary crack,” an unhealthy, self-consuming distraction from the hard work of rebuilding Egypt’s political system. Mubarak has been accused of complicity in the deaths of more than 800 Egyptians during the 18-day uprising that began January 25 as well as corruption and profiteering. He denies all the charges.

His defense team wants to call around 1,600 witnesses, including Tantawi. Given the speed of Egyptian’s creaking judicial machinery, the proceedings could go on for years.

Outside the trial Monday, hundreds of people, both pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters, were gathered in the midmorning heat.

Self-described journalist Magde Fouda was wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase, “I am an Egyptian and I reject the humiliation of the nation’s leader.” He told me the “silent majority” of Egyptians still respected the deposed president. Another young man, Ahmed Abdel Aziz, harked backed to Mubarak’s military career, saying he had kept Egypt stable, modernized the country’s infrastructure and strengthened the economy.

Such arguments don’t carry much weight with the families of people killed by Egyptian security forces during the uprising. Many carrying framed photographs of their dead relatives, they too have joined the anti-Mubarak protesters outside the Police Academy. Swift and stern justice is their demand.

After sporadic bouts of rock throwing outside and noisy deliberations inside, the trial adjourned by midafternoon Monday. It will resume on September 5. The proceedings will no longer be broadcast live. It’s the middle of Ramadan and people are testy, and it’s beastly hot. In the meantime, many impoverished Egyptians are more concerned with what has obsessed them for centuries - the need to make ends meet.

Revolutionary justice, or revolutionary crack, is not everyone’s top priority at the moment.

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Filed under: Egypt
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Jazzzzzzzz

    Can anyone really gaurentee that the next President will be one the people choose or the the leaders of the worlds choice! Come on folks the BOYS don't tell you what moves their making. Just as in (chess) some one is gonna be behind the next Egyptian presidents seat. The world leaders *play* their OWN games and we're NOT invited.

    August 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Silva

      I like this comment

      August 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Glenn

    Things would not have progressed to this level if people would embrace the democratic process. He and his followers would have been rejected at the polls and forced to take on other careers.
    Islam doesn't permit this. Islam is only used by those in power gives the justification for many behaviours and the events which follow.

    August 15, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Optimus Prime Shakespeare

    @Glenn: Right. Just as Christianity doesn't follow a man or a book to dictate policies with very inflexible tactics. You can't be a Christian and think medically necessary abortions are ok.. The same games are played in this country. We only have two parties backed by corporate interests for a reason.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenn

      I don't believe in the extreme of any policy. I believe in the democratic process western law and in human rights
      I believe in the better choice and should anything better come along I most likely will believe in that. I don't consider the ME better off.

      August 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    I'd love a Mountain Dew right now.
    Just saying.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Blanco Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

    @banasy©: 😉 Hi

    August 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Maverick

    *Sniff Sniff* b.Slider.... You stink.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    @ Blanco Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho:

    Hi, yourself. 😉 :*

    August 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hi Troll

    August 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. George Patton

    I wouldn't take too much heart in this trial as the results could easily be rigged in favor of Mubarak and his sons. The C.I.A. and the infamous British MI-6 are masters at this sort of thing! In fact, they don't call the C.I.A. the masters of deceit for nothing!!!

    August 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. fernace

    I agree with both bobcat2u & jazzzzz, but & there is always a "but!"bobcat2u, we did not start the Egyptian peoples uprising, that was their own idea! I also don't think we threw Hosni under the bus! Politics can be uplifting or grody-dirty & sometimes governments have to pick between 2 evils, because we only have 1 planet between us all & there is every mindset represented, from angel to devil! Mubarak & his people were more on the self-serving, egocentric side! I don't think our govt. should stop sovreign people from ousting a dictator they had probably wanted gone for quite some time! It's not always so simple as "we gave him up after we got what we wanted"! jazzzzz I do worry about the games politicians play, with our $$, our needs & their sincerity to us! There is alot of behind the scenes wrangling we don't know about & would probably disagree with! My motto is I'll worry about what I know! The other stuff would probably make me ready for the rubber room!!

    August 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jazzzzzzzz

    @ Fernace... Believe me from what I've learned, there is no stopping what is WRITTEN ( the Bible) The key is AUDITING the Federal Reserve.... everything is in those books!

    August 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pink Pather


    August 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
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