Egyptians lose interest in Mubarak trial
BY TAMIM ELYAN Cairo – Carrying a poster of her 20 year-old son, Moaz, who was killed in clashes with police in Tahrir Square in the early days of the January 2011 uprising, Sanaa Saeed doesn’t expect punishment to be meted out to her son’s killers, but she won’t give up the case.
Outnumbered by media and riot police, Saeed and a handful of victims’ relatives stand under the blazing sun outside the police academy in an eastern Cairo suburb which plays host to what is dubbed the “trial of the century”. This is where ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his top security officials face trial for complicity in the killing of protesters over two years ago.
The huge parking space that used to be teeming with pro and anti-Mubarak protesters during the first trial, is now empty as the opening session of the retrial kicked off Saturday in accordance with an appeals court ruling.
The case was adjourned to June 8 till the presiding judge goes through new evidence. “Another session, another postponement,” say the victims’ families. Like many other Egyptians, they are disappointed and have no hope that the trial, now entering its third year, will bring “retribution”.
“The martyrs’ families have lost hope. When we were organizing the protest today many refused to come as they see the trial as pointless,” said Saeed, who described the trial as a “scandalous play.”
“We were very optimistic when the pharaoh [Mubarak] was first put in the cage. Justice was supposed to take its course, but unfortunately it didn’t. The judiciary that was always praised in the media wasn’t fair … otherwise we wouldn’t have been like this now,” she said.
Her words echo those of many Egyptians who have lost track of the developments in the case.
“It has been a long time, the interest is less now,” said English teacher Abdel Maguid Mohamed, as he pointed to a story about the trial in an inner page of the newspaper he was reading in a café in Downtown Cairo.
“He will be acquitted because of his age … we are more interested in the current events,” Mohamed said.
Mubarak, charged with complicity in the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising, was handed a 25-year sentence last June but he appealed the ruling and a retrial was supposed to begin on April 13 but the presiding judge recused himself.
When he first appeared live inside the cage in August 2011, the scene made headlines in local and international media while hundreds protested outside the court and millions of Egyptians gathered in front of TV sets and in cafes.
Since then, two legislative elections, a presidential vote, a constitutional referendum and rampant street violence have served to distract people’s attention preoccupying them with economic woes caused by the political instability.
Rising food prices and plans to cancel some energy subsidies as part of reform procedures needed to secure international monetary aid are increasing the burden on ordinary Egyptians among whom more than 40 percent live on less than $2 a day.
“The economic suffering is the first priority for people right now,” said lawyer Saieed Ahmed who blames the “prolonged” legal procedures in Egypt for robbing people of their rights.
The repeated acquittals of police officers accused of killing protesters across the country caused many to lose faith in achieving retribution through legal means. Many are quick to blame the judiciary.
Last month a court ruling to release Mubarak pending trial angered some Islamist parties, including the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, which organized a mass protest that sparked a crisis between the presidency and the judiciary.
“This is a wrong trial at the wrong timing. Any revolution must have revolutionary trials so that the people calm down and feel that they got their rights back from those they rose against,” says Saeed Mansy, 32, a cashier.
“I was optimistic at the beginning but now I feel it will be natural for Mubarak to get out of this,” he added.
“If it was the judge’s son who died in the events, would he do that,” said Somaia Hanafy, whose brother died in Alexandria during the uprising. “Didn’t they see with their eyes what happened?”
Even Mubarak supporters, who gathered in front of the police academy chanting “innocence Mr. President” have their suspicions over the judiciary.
“This is a play and they are serving certain people … Mubarak should be released, he loves his people and couldn’t have done what he is accused of,” said Mohsen Mohamed, 55, a shop owner.
Legal experts agree with the public discontent and demand “exceptional” courts for trials related to the events of the uprising.
“The judicial system wasn’t prepared to handle cases of this kind and the current laws aren’t able to deal with these cases as well, which resulted in all the acquittals,” said Mohmed El-Damaty, a plaintiff lawyer and a board member of the lawyers syndicate.
But it seems like a far-fetched dream for the victims families who are provoked by the scene of Mubarak being transferred to the court by a helicopter and receiving a special treatment which they see as a sign of the “injustice” they are suffering.
“The pain and sadness is inside our hearts … we are disappointed in the trials but we are confident that god will force his justice,” said Mahmoud Salah who joined the victims’ families in front of the court to support them.