A verdict that denies justice
reports on the mass protests at the outcome of the Mubarak trial.
TAHRIR SQUARE swelled once again in an outpouring of anger after verdicts and sentencing were announced June 2 in the trial of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and his chief henchmen.
Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison as an accomplice in the killing of unarmed protesters during demonstrations last year that brought his three decades in power to an end. But outside the courthouse, among the families of those killed during the protests, jubilation at the guilty verdict quickly turned to anger with the announcement that Mubarak had been acquitted of corruption and other serious charges.
Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, were also acquitted on corruption charges. Mubarak's ex-security chief Habib el-Adly was found guilty in the complicity of the killing of some 900 protesters--but six top police commanders were acquitted of the same charge, with Chief Judge Ahmed Rifaat saying there was a lack of concrete evidence.
Not only did most of the defendants get off scot-free, but "a broad range of lawyers and political leaders said Mr. Mubarak's conviction was doomed to reversal on appeal," reported the New York Times.
Many Egyptians hoped Mubarak would be given a death sentence, but it was the acquittal of his sons and top officers from the notoriously brutal security forces that was especially insulting. Tens of thousands of protesters took to Tahrir Square in Cairo and to the streets in other cities throughout the country. In Tahrir, the demonstrators chanted: "A farce, a farce, this trial is a farce" and "The people want execution of the murderer." In the city of Suez, cameras captured residents angrily shouting and chanting at a Nile TV broadcaster who claimed that most people welcomed the verdict.
The outcome of Mubarak's trial may have sparked outrage, but it wasn't a complete surprise. While the dictator was toppled in the massive revolt early last year, the judiciary and legal apparatus of the old order remained largely intact, along with the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has presided over Egypt since Mubarak's downfall.
The police who are collecting evidence were appointed by Mubarak. The prosecution was fully a part of state security and was involved in settling accounts with Mubarak opponents. Some judges complain that the files sent to them are almost empty...and most of these people are on trial just because of what they did in five days. But what about 30 years? What about 30 years of oppression, torture, disappearances, killing by torture? What about that?
In a statement, Egypt's Revolutionary Socialists argued that the verdict was part of the attempt to fully re-establish the old ruling order, barely more than a year after the revolution that ended Mubarak's reign:
The verdict issued by the Egyptian bureaucracy expresses its own standing, and that of its allies, the powerful businessmen and the military, who continue in their positions with the full complement of privileges and powers, accruing enormous dividends off of the blood and sweat of the working classes over the span of 30 years. During this time, Mubarak and his police apparatus played the role of loyal guard dogs for the interests of these elites, and in return, these elites express their allegiance to their faithful men.
For the essence of the verdict is collective innocence, as if the revolution had never occurred, as if the blood of the people had never flowed. For what could be easier than to appeal the rulings against Mubarak and el-Adly? The subordinates and assistants who carried out the executions of the people in cold blood have been acquitted completely.
These manifest contradictions in the rulings cannot help but reveal that "rule of law," as it is understood and used by Mubarak's regime in its executive and judicial powers, is nothing more than a huge lie.
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TO MANY, the outcome of the Mubarak trial is a further indication that Egypt's military rulers since Mubarak's downfall are feeling emboldened by the fact that Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak and an open representative of the old regime, made it through the first round of presidential election and will face Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in a run-off set for June 16-17.
For his part, Morsi strongly denounced the outcome of the Mubarak trial. After the verdicts were announced, he led a march to Tahrir Square, where he was met with cheers and applause. Morsi promised that Mubarak, his sons and his aides would be retried if he was elected president.
Morsi is clearly under pressure to take a tough stand--not least from the rank and file of the organization, which has been much more militant than leaders like Morsi. During the revolt itself in January and February 2011, members of the Muslim Brotherhood played a central role in many of the mass demonstrations--particularly in the defense of Tahrir Square from the thugs. But the leadership vacillated.
While the Brotherhood has come into conflict with the SCAF at various points in the past year, it has also aimed to reach an accommodation with the military. For example, late last year, as voting got underway in parliamentary elections--and mass protests erupted in response to vicious repression of protests by security forces--the Brotherhood opposed the demonstrations "out of fear that they might disrupt the elections the group was expecting to win," SocialistWorker.org reported. "Since the votes started, the group made a public offer to grant the SCAF immunity from prosecution in exchange for a peaceful transition of power, and it signaled a willingness to permit the generals wide latitude in the drafting of a new constitution."
What the military hoped to accomplish with this verdict--now, with the second round of the presidential election a few weeks away--was the subject of much speculation. Some believed the acquittals were an outright provocation, designed to strengthen Shafiq's case for a "law and order" crackdown; others guessed the military might have hoped the life sentence for Mubarak would appease most people.
Whatever is the case, as the Revolutionary Socialists statement puts it: "[We] can say the following: What has occurred has been a sham trial in its entirety, and it was incumbent that these trials be revolutionary trials, with extraordinary procedures as determined by the revolution."
But the outpouring of anger, seen in Tahrir Square and cities across Egypt, shows the potential for countering the recent advances of the military and the old regime--with mass mobilizations to defend the successes of the revolution that brought down a tyrant.