January 18, 2012 (Alarabiya with Agencies)
January 18, 2012 (Alarabiya with Agencies)
The trial of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons Gamal and Alaa, former interior minister Habib al-Adly and six other aides resumed on Wednesday. It will mark the second day for the defense hearing, that is scheduled to go on until Feb. 16.
Mubarak was “a just man, not a tyrant” and his accusers have no evidence to support their charge that he ordered the killing of protesters during the uprising against him, the lawyer defending the former president said on Tuesday.
Defense lawyer Farid al-Deeb said the prosecution had initially decided against bringing the charge against Mubarak for lack of evidence and only did so later in response to public pressure.
“There is no way that Hosni Mubarak, who is accused of murder and abusing his power, is the same Hosni Mubarak I am about to describe,” said Deeb, repeatedly raising his voice and shaking his fist in an impassioned speech to the court, according to Reuters.
“He is a man with clean hands and a pure heart.”
As in previous sessions, the 83-year old Mubarak was wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital trolley. The man who governed Egypt for three decades listened to the defense from a cage reserved for the defendants, alongside him are his two sons who are standing trial on charges of corruption.
Addressing the charge that Mubarak had ordered the killing of protesters, Deeb said there was no legal case against the former president. “He’ll be acquitted,” whispered members of the audience who appeared convinced by the argument.
Broadcast live in its early stages, the trial mesmerized millions of Arabs. Mubarak is the first Arab leader toppled in a wave of protests to appear in court in person.
A verdict of innocence would likely trigger outrage among many Egyptians and could lead to more protests, though Mubarak could still be found guilty of the other charges he faces, including corruption. Deeb told the court he would spend the coming days addressing those charges.
More than 850 people were killed in the 18 days of protests that unseated Mubarak last February, since when the military has ruled the country.
Presenting their case earlier this month, lawyers for the prosecution said their evidence gathering had been impeded by a lack of cooperation from the Interior Ministry – a charge it denied.
Deeb cited witness testimony from Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s deputy in the last days of his rule, that there had been no orders to shoot. Testimony from Suleiman and other senior officials was given in closed session, according to Reuters.
Orders were “to deal with the protests in the usual manner” by containing them with riot police and the use of batons, Deeb cited Suleiman as saying in previously unreleased statements.
On Oct. 2, Egypt’s military ruler Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi himself said in a speech that Mubarak never ordered his security forces to fire on demonstrators who rose up and forced him to quit after 18 days of protests.
“Nobody asked us to open fire and nobody will open fire” on the people, Tantawi said at the time, according to AFP.
Deeb enraged lawyers for the victims on Tuesday when he claimed that Mubarak supported the uprising that toppled him. He quoted from a letter Mubarak wrote to lifetime friend and Cabinet minister Ahmed Shafiq, whom he named as prime minister during the uprising, according to The Associated Press.
In that letter, Mubarak said the protesters were exercising their right to stage peaceful protests but were infiltrated by criminals and Islamists who sabotaged public property and challenged the regime’s “legitimacy.”
The head of the prosecution had argued that even if Mubarak did not directly order the killing of the protesters, he had failed in his constitutional duty to protect the people.
The judge has given the prosecution and defense until Feb. 16 to make their case.
The prosecution opened their case on Jan. 3 with an attack on Mubarak’s political record, saying he had succumbed to family pressure to arrange a transfer of power to his youngest son, Gamal.
“What relevance of this to the case?” said Deeb, pressing the microphone to his mouth as his voice boomed around the court. “The purpose is to give the media more food for defamation and harming the defendant without any due cause.”
Deeb spent an hour listing Mubarak’s achievements from the time of his birth in 1928 until his ouster, describing him as “a respectable man who is neither bloodthirsty nor aggressive.”
Deeb said Mubarak had served his country for 60 years, repeatedly citing the Quran, Islam’s holy book, during the three-hour presentation to the court.
He presented Mubarak’s record of military service as an air force officer and attributed any failings during his presidency to the burden imposed by Egypt’s rapid population growth, saying it had doubled to 82 million in the years he was head of state.
It was under Mubarak’s rule, he added, that Egypt recovered the entire Sinai Peninsula from Israel, territory returned under the 1979 peace treaty agreed by former President Anwar Sadat.
“All this man asks from you is justice and being fair to him. We cannot cover his history with dust,” Deeb said.
Deeb also chastised the prosecution for what he said was its deviation from its task when its opening statements were political rather than focused on the legal aspects of the case, AP reported.
Bringing those responsible for the killing of protesters during the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 uprising is a thorny issue in post-Mubarak Egypt. Activists believe the generals who took over from Mubarak were not serious about punishing the killers, citing the acquittal or release on bail of members of the hated police force who are linked to the killings. There have been several protests over the past week in Cairo and the city of Suez over such cases, with families of the victims accusing the ruling generals of manipulating the courts to acquit defendants in such cases.
But a former judge and deputy of the Supreme Criminal Court told AFP on Tuesday that Mubarak cannot be sentenced to death under Egyptian law.
“In accordance with Egyptian law, the death sentence is handed down in four specific cases including premeditated murder and this does not concern the former president because there is no proof,” said Ahmad Mekki.
“The penalty for murder without premeditation is 25 years in jail,” Mekki added.
Meanwhile Egyptian newspapers quoted Deeb denying reports that Gamal Mubarak and his mother Suzanne gave him instructions on how to present his case.
The flagship government daily Al-Ahram said on Monday that Deeb would make surprise revelations during his defense.
Deeb told al-Masry al-Youm that Kuwaiti lawyers were among several attorneys who had joined the defense team but would not take an active part in arguing the case.
He also insisted Mubarak must lie on a hospital bed throughout the trial and not sit on a chair as he did during the last hearing.
“His hospital bed is equipped in case he suffers another stroke. If he sits on a chair, saving him will be difficult,” Deeb was quoted as saying by al-Masry al-Youm.
Mubarak is being treated in a military hospital for a heart condition. His trial opened on Aug. 3, after protesters stepped up demonstrations calling on the ruling military to try him and ex-regime officials.
A medical source quoted by al-Masry al-Youm said Mubarak is in no condition to be carried to court every day, and was expected to miss some sessions.
Picture credit: al-Masry al-Youm