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EGYPT – Mubarak on trial: No one is above the law

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Laaska News  August 4,2011

Kudashkina Ekaterina
AUDIO Photo: EPA   

Interview with Elijah Zarwan, Senior Analyst for North Africa with the International Crisis Group.

Mubarak has been accused of corruption and of giving the order to use lethal force against protesters during the first 18 days of the Egyptian uprising in January-February.

The first question that springs to mind: isn’t it his duty as a country’s president to restore stability, which means to deal with protests somehow, if they threaten the stability and security situation in the country.

Of course, it’s a difficult charge to prove. We don’t know yet whether Mubarak will say “No, I never gave an order to use lethal force” or whether he will say “Yes, I gave an order to use lethal force to protect government buildings, police stations, in order to put down the last barrier”. The defense clashes happened near Tahrir. But we don’t know which defense they will take.

What do we basically expect of the trial?

I think for a great many Egyptians there are certain hopes. On a very fundamental, emotional level the reaction has been that the former regime has really gone, then it’s not coming back and they are in the control of their destiny. It is important to establish this principle that no one is above the law. Will it bring stability is another question. In my own view, the situation in Egypt will remain volatile, the public opinion will continue to swing between celebration and a darker mood. It’s been a very common sentiment over the past six or seven years. The revolution has failed, I haven’t seen any changes. And I think that putting senior figures of the former regime on trial is useful. It’s necessary. People should see justice for the crimes that were committed. But it shouldn’t necessarily be done in response to certain impressions. Justice takes a long time, evidence takes a long time to gather. And as you watch, we run the risk of either an imperfect trial or even worse instability. In this sense, trials can be rather satisfying on a short-term, fundamental, emotional level, but it can also have a long-term effect of a difficult fundamental reform that almost all would like to see happen in this country.

What could be the possible sentence? Do we expect a death sentence or it could perhaps have a milder outcome?

I do think that the trial will drag on for a very long time. Mubarak is very old, he is in poor health. His heart was operated and, according to his doctors, since February he’s gotten worse. This is according to reports. If we expect a legal process that would eventually brought him into the cage of the accused, it’s possible that he may not survive this trial and he may not last long enough to hear the sentence. You say that the most extreme is the death penalty. But we are a long way from that. It’s been the beginning of a process, which certainly involves a long trial. I think it’s premature to speculate on the level of jeopardy he may be in but I think he could face a death penalty.

Do I get it right that people in the street are not supporting Mr. Mubarak?

Mubarak does have a few diehard supporters. We see them rally around the city, they are coming after the sons of Mubarak. These protests have been small. There is a chance that, as the trial progresses and Mubarak is allowed to express himself, people, even if they didn’t support him politically, if they didn’t support him as a president, even if they rejoiced in this changes, might feel sympathy for him on a human level. He’s an old man etc, etc. Mubarak will make a speech to appeal to people’s emotions and their sense of mercy, saying that he wanted to die in his country. It’s fascinating for a lot of people on the human, sympathetic level. Many people said: “Have shame! It’s an old man, let him retire”. There is a chance that at least over 6-month period there will be human sympathy, regardless of his politics.

Even if the sentence is harsh, do I get it right that it would not trigger off more protests and clashes in Egypt?

Anything is possible. It’s possible that if the sentence is harsh that could trigger more protests. But Mubarak at this point really has very little popular support in the streets. Before February 11, it was almost impossible to find a Mubarak supporter anywhere on the streets of Egypt. Now there’ve already been sentiments for the old times, for the stability. As the trial continues, that could grow. But for the moment most people are rejoicing in the trial, from what we can see.

VOR.

 

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