A Caged Mubarak in the Dock

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In a scene most Egyptians believed would never happen, former President Hosni Mubarak, confined to a stretcher, was wheeled into a cage in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, located in a suburb east of Cairo. He is to stand trial for corruption and for the murders of nearly 850 protesters slain during the uprising last winter. As many Egyptians revel in the dramatic event, other spectators cannot overlook troubling changes in their country’s political landscape. For even if justice is served in the trial, the fear remains that the fall of Mubarak heralds the rise of something much worse.

The trial begins just days after hundreds of thousands of Salafists poured into Tahrir Square calling for Egypt to become an Islamist state and adopt Sharia as the law of the land. The demonstration, which shocked many analysts with its organization and discipline, raised the specter of a union between the Salafists, represented by their political party Al Nour or “The Light,” and the Muslim Brotherhood. The alliance threatens to sweep Islamic extremists into power when the elections are held in November or December.

The prospect of such a catastrophe coming to pass weighs heavily on the military, which has delayed elections in order to give secular parties more time to organize. And it points up the dilemma in which secular Egyptians find themselves. Mubarak — a brutal tyrant who tortured opponents and suppressed the political opposition, while playing a double game by cozying up to Islamists — might be a devil, but he’s a devil they know. The frightening possibility that a union of extremists might come to power, establish Sharia law, abrogate the treaty with Israel, and become an implacable foe of the West, is one that has both secular parties and the nation’s military on edge.

Regardless, Mubarak’s trial is unprecedented in the Arab world and is being closely watched in the region. Aside from the trial of Saddam Hussein that occurred thanks to American intervention, the idea of holding a dictator accountable for his actions in a court of law rather than being shipped off into exile or murdered in a bloody revolution is entirely new. And the spectacle of the once nearly omnipotent Mubarak in a cage wearing prison whites has riveted the Egyptian people as perhaps nothing else since the protests against the dictator began last February.

The former dictator, rumored to be suffering from cancer, looked pale and weak, but answered the judge’s query about his guilt or innocence in a defiant voice. “I deny all these accusations completely,” he said, wearily waving his hand.

Whether or not Mubarak is suffering from cancer or simply playing for sympathy, his appearance in a wire cage, lying on a stretcher, shielded from cameras by his two sons who are also on trial for corruption, has electrified the country as millions watch live on television. “I am dreaming,” Hossam Muhammad said as he watched the trial. “Somebody pinch me.” The mother of a 17-year-old girl murdered during the protests said, “This is the dream of Egyptians, to see him like this, humiliated like he humiliated them for the last 30 years.”

Judging by the long speeches made by attorneys for both sides, the trial may very well degenerate into a circus, or worse, a show trial, where the powerful emotions of Mubarak’s many victims will be given free reign, and the proceedings will appear to be an exercise in revenge. The military and the reformers can ill-afford for that to happen, since it may even generate sympathy for Mubarak if he is seen as being railroaded to a guilty verdict.

Hundreds of pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters demonstrated outside of the trial venue. One source told The Telegraph that 54 people were injured when the two sides threw stones and bottles at each other. The pro-Mubarak protesters were especially emotional, screaming, “We will demolish and burn the prison if they convict Mubarak.” Many wore T-shirts with the slogan, “I’m Egyptian. I reject the insulting of the leader of the nation.”

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  • ze-ev ben jehudah

    Well the muslim brotherhoods have won and soon the sharia will
    be implemented,and that litlebit of freedom goes underground for the
    coming 100 years. The West will follow in England there now are area's
    where sharia law rules Brittania.And by the way;Mr Barack Hussein Obama!!
    go home leave the oval office to competent men/or woman.

  • Cuban Refugee

    Yes, the fall of the Egyptian president foreshadows something much worse, and Egyptians soon will begin to realize that the savior they beckoned to come through their gates will make the corrupt and brutal Mubarak appear like a saint by comparison. A sense of foreboding chilled my body as I read your excellent piece, and thought about all the other countries falling through mob madness in a global version of the French Revolution. Dickens could have been referring to the current state of our world: "the worst of times … the age of foolishness … the season of darkness … the winter of our despair … the epoch of incredulity … we have nothing before us … and are going direct to hell."

  • MBA NJ

    When told as a youth that Life Is Not Fair, I did not envision that an uninformed citizen who doesn't care anything about his country other than what he can get for the moment, can absolutely negate those thinking and caring citizens who are trying to make a culture that is enduring and fair. Hence, like the cartoonists have often suggested, we are our own worst enemy…..this is not in praise of any former leaders but rather a cautionary comment that the devil known may be better than those lurking to do more evil as witnessed by most of Africa's history and regime track record.

  • The concerned

    Mr. Carter abandend the Shah of Iran, and gave the contry to Islamist, and by now you know the outcome. Mr. Obama abondend Hosni Mobarak of Egept, and the Islamist are taking over the contry creating a larger Iran in Africa. for G-D sake when we are going to open our eyes and learn.

  • digdigby

    All the savvy businessmen (steeped in corruption as they HAD to be to do business in Mubarak's Egypt) are fleeing with their money before THEY are in the docket and so Egypt is bleeding money. 1) Egypt has no oil to export 2) Egypt imports half its food 3) Egypt's vital tourism trade is dead in the water and will remain that way a long, long time. Many predict riots and starvation within the year.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    So Mubarak is in the can and all of his Billions are not seeming to do him any
    good. He was in his seaside villa and now seemingly sold out by his military. It
    may all be a show and the finale could be something of a let down or somehting
    no one could ever have predicted. No matter what happens the cage he is in
    with his sons looks utilitarian and fitting, how can we get first dibs on it for our
    own use, I can see Obama, Pelosi and Reid amongst others honoring it's walls
    at a trial I see as building and eminent, I hope…………………………….William

  • Dispozadaburka

    Good article.
    About time.

  • mcrobbins

    It has been reported that Israel offered Mubarak assylum. I guess that country doesn't throw its allies under a bus. That can't be said for the Obama administration.

  • LindaRivera

    U.S. leaders worked behind the scenes for three years to oust U.S. ally, moderate Mubarak, and bring to power their favorites, the Muslim Brotherhood. This American action destabilized Egypt and caused destabilization of other Middle Eastern countries. This clearly was the American goal.

    The Telegraph
    Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising
    The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

  • LindaRivera

    After the American betrayal of U.S. ally, moderate Mubarak, and Mubarak's ouster, the situation for Egypt's Coptic Christians has turned into a complete nightmare. Things were bad before. Now, they are desperate. Attacks on Christians; attacks and destruction of churches, Christian homes, and Christian property has greatly increased. And the kidnappings of Egyptian Christian female children by Muslim males has also greatly increased. ALL of which was completely predictable. THERE IS NO ONE TO HELP THE CHRISTIANS.

    • DePalm

      They should become our main population of immigrants for the next twenty years.

      • LindaRivera

        It is EXTREMELY difficult for Egypt's Christians to emigrate to the U.S. The American Embassy is packed with Muslim employees.

        At a protest in New York City demonstrating against Muslim persecution and murder of Christians in Egypt (where they chanted: "Why, why, must we die"),; A Christian Copt told me he had tried three times here in America to get papers to stay in America and each time he was turned down. U.S. authorities are not pro-Christian. They are pro-Islamic.

  • LindaRivera

    The new Egypt:

    2 million Egyptians in Tahrir Square chant "To Jerusalem we are heading, Martyrs in the millions." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du5emnvGgvg&fe

  • LindaRivera

    The new Egypt. And they have just begun.

    Egyptian protesters promise to destroy Israel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWcKewmyh_o&fe

    • Dispozadaburka

      Sorry Linda,
      Your You Tube is no longer available.
      Thanks anyway.

  • WildJew

    This is very sad to see how Obama has abandoned a US ally for Muslim extremists.

  • FriendofGaryCooper

    And let''s not forget about Libya. Why was there suddenly a "rebellion" in Libya?
    Because Ghadaffi, at the behest of the Bush Administration, cancelled his nuclear
    program, and gave the names of Libyan Al-Qaeda operatives to the CIA. Although
    Ghadaffi is a brutal tyrant and responsible for the Lockerbie bombing; he may have
    realized that those running the Islamist takeover agenda are no friends of his. This is
    why Obama supports the Libyan "rebels."