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June 30, 2012

Egypt: Justice, in or out of court

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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On Earth there is no such thing as justice, in or out of court; this is how the popular saying goes. Many Egyptians last Saturday firmly believe so following the sentencing of their 84-year old ex-president Hosni Mubarak and his Interior Minister Habib el-Adly to life in prison and the acquittals of Mubarak's two sons and six top police officers.

Although the details of the sentencing is not published at the time of writing, it seems Mubarak and his Interior Minster were sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop, but not for ordering, the killing of some 1000 protesters during the 18-day uprising January 25 to February 11 last year.

This may explain the acquittals of the six top police officers and the fact that the judge chose not to impose a death sentencing, opting instead to send Mubarak and el-Adly to prison for the rest of their lives.

The three panel judges headed by Judge Ahmed Rifaat delivered a strongly worded statement describing Mubarak's era as "30 years of darkness" and "a darkened nightmare" that ended only “when Egyptians rose up to demand change.” The protesters “peacefully demanded democracy from rulers who held a tight grip on power," Rifaat said.

Mubarak and his two sons along with a family friend who is on the run in Spain were acquitted of the lesser charge of corruption with the judge citing a 10-year statute of limitations that had lapsed since the alleged crimes were committed.

But the two sons will remain under arrest while investigating new charges of insider trading. They were among a group of nine men who were charged in making illicit gains, some $100 million, from the sale of a bank, according to Egypt’s prosecutor-general.

What makes people rejecting the rulings is its timing.

The country is politically polarized like never before while in the middle of the second round of presidential election to be held June 16 and 17. 

Thousands took to the streets and gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the uprising, chanting "The people want to cleanse the judiciary," and "God's verdict is execution."

Hundreds waved Egyptian flags and chanting slogans demanding "retribution" and “justice” and some spread Mubarak's picture on the asphalt and walked over it. Some chanted slogans denouncing the trial as "theatrical" and asked the ruling generals "Execute them, execute them!"

Relatives of the victims killed during the 18-days uprising and the pro-democracy youth groups were well represented.

The choice for Egypt’s top office is Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, and Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both are not trusted by many Egyptians to take the country forward; Shafiq is accused that he will bring the old regime back and Morsi is accused that he will turn the country into an Islamic fundamentalist state and only maximizing the MB’s political gains.

But irrespective of who will win, a Mubarak-like will never be able to rule Egypt again.

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