The trial of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began today in Cairo with the former ruler pleading innocent to charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters during Egypt’s winter revolution. Aired live on state television, this was the first time Mubarak has appeared on TV since February 10, when he gave a defiant speech refusing to resign.
The former dictator, who is said to be seriously ill, was wheeled into the defendant’s cage of the courtroom on a hospital bed. With him in the cage, which Egypt typically uses to hold defendants during trial, were his nine co-defendants, including his sons Gamal and Alaa, his former interior minister Habib el-Adly, and six former top police officials. Mubarak, el-Adly, and the former policemen could face the death penalty if convicted. Separately, Mubarak’s two sons, as well as the former president himself, face charges of corruption.
Mubarak lies on a stretcher inside the defendant’s cage during the opening session of his trial.
While many Egyptians were ecstatic with the site of their former dictator bed-ridden and behind bars, a quick trial is not expected. The prosecution’s file for Mubarak is reportedly over 12,000 pages long and his defense attorneys plan to call more than 1,000 witnesses. At the end of today’s session, Mubarak’s trial was adjourned until August 15; he will be kept in a hospital in Cairo until then.
A slow trial is not necessarily a bad thing. “It’s better to have justice quick, but the most important thing is to have real justice,” said Nicholas Koumjian, a lawyer with experience trying war criminals. “It’s very important that any trials that take place are legitimate, so that people in 10-20 years say, ‘Justice was done.’ “
The manner in which Mubarak’s trial is conducted will set the tone for Egyptian politics in the future. Will Egypt move forward with more freedoms and equality for all under the law, or will it remain stagnant with its rulers and elite protected? Egypt has the potential to transform itself into a great country over the next decade. The first step toward that goal would be a fair and transparent trial for the man that once ruled Cairo.