Hosni Mubarek Stands Trial: The Mighty Didn’t look so Mighty Anymore
By: La Septieme Wilaya
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, stood trial this morning in Cairo. Let me repeat this sentence one more time: Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, Egypt’s former most powerful man, stood trial this morning in Cairo.
He stood before a judge, and answered a very simple question: how do you plead, guilty or not guilty? And Mubarak answered not guilty. Of course the former dictator was going to deny all the charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters leveled against him. How he pled is not important at all, but the fact he was in the box of the accused, like a simple criminal, and forced to answer and to enter a plea is more important than the outcome of the trial itself. Mubarak the mighty in the accused box is such a powerfully symbolic image that all the dictators in the world, and especially the Arab dictators, are terrified and mortified by it.
Ladies and gentlemen, what happened in Cairo this morning is simply a historic event. This is the first time that an Arab dictator stands trial, and is forced to answer charges of corruption and conspiracy to commit murder. This is the first time an Arab dictator is compelled to defend himself before the people of his own country. This is the first time that an Arab dictator is held accountable before a court of law. I know there are those who would remind me of Saddam’s trial, but this is totally different. Iraqis were only able to bring Saddam to trial after the US soldiers invaded the country and arrested the dictator.
Mubarek’s trial is different. It is the result of a peaceful and powerful popular revolution that toppled one of the most powerful dictators in the Arab world, and forced him to stand trial. In my book, the symbolism of this trial could easily be compared to the trial of Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette or even Tsar Nicolas II, of course if he had one.
We all know the outcome of the trial. There is no surprise here. There will be no last minute dramatic testimony or surprise witness. This is not a Perry Mason episode. Mubarak will be found guilty, and will be sentenced to either death or to a long jail time no matter what. The trial will be ugly, and justice will be delivered with a pair forceps. The star of the show, if I may use this analogy, is not the Egyptian judicial system, but a former dictator in the box of the accused just like any everyday Egyptian thug. This is the image, the sound, the taste, and the feeling that we all should keep in our collective memory here. Not something else.
So, what did the former dictator do or what is he accused of? At his first court appearance, Mubarak spoke from a hospital bed from inside the box of the defendants, and forcefully said “I categorically deny all the charges.” But the voice of the lion was no longer scary. He actually sounded just like a criminal. He wasn’t mighty anymore. He wasn’t Egypt’s pharaoh anymore.
The charges leveled against Mubarak and his sons are serious. He is accused of premeditated murder, the killing of protesters, the failure to use his power to stop abuses against civilians, and his collusion with other individuals in the misuse of state funds, and corruption. If he were found guilty, Mubarak would be sentenced to death.
Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, who are on trial for corruption, denied the charges against them as well. They were beside their father inside the metal defendants cage, both wearing white prison uniforms. It changes a little bit from the Armani suits they used to wear.
This is all that can be said about the first day of Mubarak in a Cairo’s courtroom; and yet it is this first day that historians will remember and write about. The day the mighty dictator who once ruled Egypt with an iron fist did not look so mighty anymore.
When the French revolutionary leaders wanted to guillotine Louis XVI, their primary aim was to radically change France’s future. Those revolutionary wanted to deeply consolidate the revolution and eliminate all threats against the new republic. On the day of Louis XVI execution, Saint-Just famously said “France is no longer France today.” Well, Egypt is no longer Egypt today. Egypt has radically changed today, and this is good for all the Arab world. The Egyptian revolution has been deeply consolidated by this trial. And I can safely say that the way forward for all Egyptians will be a long process of democratic consolidation. This process will not be linear. It will not look pretty at times. It will have its ups and downs, but all those movements along that path would eventually lead to the consolidation of the democratic rule in Egypt. That, i have no doubt about it.