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. Innocent Iyke

    What is happenning to Hosni Mubarack, should serve as a warning to despotic and greedy African leaders. it goes to show that no condition is permanent.

    August 15, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Some warning. Leave power and be put on try and face the death penalty. Or fight like Gadafi and Assad – who will almost certainly be strung up like Mussolini when all is said and done but at least they get to last a few more months.

      That he peacefully stepped down should count for something, if not a lot. In the end, he did the right thing.

      August 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NENO BROWN (NEW YORK KING PIN)

    I HAVE the revolutionary crack.....

    August 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    No man is infallible.
    Mubarek proves it.

    August 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Hi, Ruffie.

    August 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ahmed

    Blind revenge will not go to anything..

    August 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      No, but Blind Faith put out one really amazing album.

      August 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Larry L

    t wouldn't hurt Americans to pay attention to nations where the rich are allowed to run roughshod over the working class. Eventually, the fires of revolution are ignited and the playing field is leveled. Our Republican Party represents the rich and works to win a class war. At what point will the poor decide they've had enough?

    August 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Quite true, Larry L. In this country, the MIC(military-industrial-complex) rules as it now controls both the White House and Congress. These useless and unnecessary wars will continue to be fought while the poor and the middle class are just ignored!!!

      August 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. pilihP

    ?ti xif uoy naC. sdrawkcab lla s'tI..NNC@

    August 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. saywhat

    We kept this ruthless dictator propped up for decades to safeguard Israel's interests..E ven when Egyptian people rose up against him in mass demonstrations. Law makers like McCain & Lieberman on Israel's prompting, tried pursuading President Obama to go to his rescue.
    Hope justice is served in this case.

    August 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      I hope so too, saywhat but knowing how the C.I.A. operates, that may not happen because the right-wing thugs in Washington simply don't want it to!!!

      August 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. pilihP

    ?xif uoy naC .srdawkcab smeeS ..NNC@

    August 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pink Pather

      Cnn can you please fix Philips backwards posts pls .... He HE

      August 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. peter

    he desrves all that humiliation

    August 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      maybe we could all call him bad or make him run through the mill-would you be happy then pete?

      August 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. b. Slider

    I bet it smells really awful in that courtroom!!!!!

    August 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Optimus Prime Shakespeare

    @Larry L: Your beloved Democrats have not demanded an end to outsourcing, nor have they suggested taxing companies that do it (taxing all rich people is not the same). You also are under some naive impression that Democrats live in some modest cave somewhere and only work to serve the American people. Democrats and Republicans both benefit from the fleecing of America. Their agendas are to eliminate the working middle class, so there are people who rely on the government as well as low paying jobs to feed their families. Nancy Pelosi was given a report by the Dept. Of Labor about child labor and slavery that was directly or indirectly being used for American company's profit. There was a bill introduced in the house, but it was quickly and bilaterally shot down with a large majority from both parties. You may hate tea, but you're drinking the Kool Aide... Do some investigating for yourself instead of regurgitating partisan talking points.

    August 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      I investigated them closely and found out that you are full of hot air, and that you are a well known blabbermouth who likes to hear himself talk, but rarely makes any sense. Don't think you are fooling any of us, and get back to work at the french fry station before the manager comes back and catches you using his computer again, and you get fired, and your caseworker has to come down to Bugrer King again to plead for your job.

      August 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Optimus Prime Shakespear

      @b.Slider: No I'm right actually. Nike was busted a few years back for having children in Pakistan making soccer balls. They only started to care when the public caught wind of it. Here's a link for the dept of labor with some information for you. Not that you really care. You're just worried about me instead of doing something constructive. If you wear gold, eat chocolate, or own any electronics then chances are some were made using children or indentured servants in the process. The government is only taking steps to investigate and keep out what it can, but it is not charging it's corporate financiers with any crimes, nor are they naming names.. I'm in school and a little more skilled than a fry cook. You must think you're a chef because you barely made it through culinary school at a community college.

      http://www.dol.gov/ILAB/regs/eo13126/main.htm

      August 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Optimus Prime Shakespeare

    Nice little twist of information Hosni Megatron.. You will remain defiant until your day of judgement then you will plead for mercy, but it will be too late. Always remember.. Nobody turned on you until you turned on them first. Your ego and inflexibility will be your undoing.

    August 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      Oh chubbsey-ubbsey you've got something heavy on your brain!!!

      August 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Optimus Prime Shakespear

      @b.Slider: I'd be happy to meet you in a dark Detroit alley so we can discuss this face to face, instead of hurling insults like a little girl from the safety of our homes. Are you mad that Dad loves me more or something? Can you blame him? Lol Are you really that surprised that nobody likes you and you were sent off to live among us? Lol Look at yourself. There's nothing good about you. You have flashes of brilliance, but that bet's outshines by your mouth and your disgusting nature. Personally I think you got off too easy. Who really needs billions of years for redemption? Lol Only some reject t_a_r_d who can't do simple math. "Why have you forsaken me father!?" Lol Look in the mirror Tyler.

      August 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fernace

    Right on, Larry L & let's go a step further with the comparison, not just with Mubaraks regime but all the self serving, dictatorial theocracies! When politicians concentrate on 1or2 demographics, such as the Teabags are doing, ( rich & evangelicals) they leave out a slew of people who are not used to being mariginalized! Forcing religious agendas on Americans is very similar to Taliban tactics & will not sit well in a nation whose people pride themselves on freedom & equality! As far as Mubarak, Egyptians can't rest now! Getting him out of office was 1 step in a long process to freedom for the people! If they aren't vigilant, some1 equally selfserving & dictatorial will usurp his place &the uprising will be for nothing!!

    August 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bobcat2u

    I know this sounds terrible, but Mr. Mubarek is a scapegoat. Granted, he was a strong handed ruler, but as long as he held control of the country we backed him 100 %. Since the advent of arab spring, it was clear that he no longer had control, so we threw him to the wolves. Makes you kind of proud, huh ?

    August 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
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