1:35pm

Fri June 1, 2012
Middle East

Egypt Braces For Verdict In Hosni Mubarak Trial

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 4:13 pm

An Egyptian court plans to announce the verdict Saturday in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, and regardless of which way the decision goes, it could prompt a public outpouring of emotion at a sensitive moment for the country.

Mubarak is charged with corruption and complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the revolution last year that ousted him.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty. But some are predicting he'll be acquitted, and that could set off another round of protests and possibly violence.

Photographs from the trial, which began last August, showed the 84-year-old Mubarak propped up in a hospital bed in a courtroom cage.

He, his former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, and six other security officials are accused of ordering — or failing to stop — the killing of protesters during the revolution.

Weak Case Against Mubarak?

The trial stirred so much national emotion — including clashes outside the courthouse — that the judge soon closed the proceedings to the public. Much of the high-level testimony, including that of the current military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was banned from being discussed publicly.

Heba Morayef, the Egypt analyst for Human Rights Watch, has been closely monitoring the trial. She is one of several analysts who say prosecutors presented a weak case in their attempt to link Mubarak to the killings.

"When they started their pleadings in the Mubarak trial, [the prosecutors] said that they had not received sufficient cooperation from the Ministry of Interior and from intelligence agencies in their attempts to investigate the case and, in particular, to investigate Mubarak's responsibility on those days," Morayef says.

In the end, no one testified in public that Mubarak gave the order to kill protesters.

Hoda Nasrallah of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is on a legal team representing 75 of the victims' families. She says she believes that even if it is a weak case, there is still enough evidence to link the former president to the crimes.

"[Minister] Adly would not be able to give the orders to kill the people without Mubarak's knowledge. He does not need to give the order to Adly to shoot, but his knowledge of it and not objecting to it makes him guilty," Nasrallah says.

Mubarak's lawyers declined requests for an interview.

Trial Eclipsed By Crime, Economy

On a busy street in the Cairo neighborhood of Garden City, not everyone is convinced that a Mubarak conviction would bring Egyptians justice.

When the trial started in August, many Egyptians were demanding revenge for the deaths of the protesters. Since then, public attention has shifted to an ongoing crime wave and the stagnant economy.

The impending verdict is competing for attention with the divisive presidential campaign. A runoff vote later this month pits Mubarak's last prime minister against the candidate of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Mohammed Hassan, a 60-year-old butcher, says he's more concerned about seeing his business wither since the revolution than seeing Mubarak executed.

"He's an old man — he's over 80. What good would it do to punish him now? He's dying anyway," Hassan says.

But other Egyptians like Karima el-Sayid, a 35-year-old housewife, say a "not guilty" verdict on the murder charges is unacceptable.

Mubarak and the others shouldn't just be punished, she says — they should be executed.

Mubarak also faces corruption charges, which could lead to a prison sentence. He and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are accused, among other things, of accepting bribes in exchange for facilitating natural gas contracts.

This week, the younger Mubaraks were also charged with insider trading involving the sale of an Egyptian bank. A trial date for that case hasn't been set.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Egypt, a verdict is due tomorrow in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak is charged with corruption and complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the revolution that ousted him. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Some are predicting that he will be acquitted, and that could set off another round of protests and possibly more violence. Kimberly Adams reports from Cairo.

HOSNI MUBARAK: (Speaking foreign language)

KIMBERLY ADAMS, BYLINE: I am present. All of these charges I deny completely. Those words are the only ones Egyptians have heard from Mubarak since his trial began last August. Photographs from the trial showed the 84-year-old Mubarak propped up in a hospital bed in a courtroom cage. He, his former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, and six other security officials are accused of ordering or failing to stop the killing of protesters during the revolution.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

ADAMS: The trial stirred so much national emotion, including clashes outside the courthouse, that the judge soon closed the proceedings to the public. Much of the high-level testimony, including that of the current military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was banned from being discussed publicly. Heba Morayef, the Egypt analyst for Human Rights Watch, has been closely monitoring the trial.

She is one of several analysts here who say prosecutors presented a weak case in their attempts to link Mubarak to the killings.

HEBA MORAYEF: And they themselves, in the first day, when they started their pleadings in the Mubarak trial, said that they had not received sufficient cooperation from the Ministry of Interior and from intelligence agencies in their attempts to investigate the case and, in particular, to investigate Mubarak's responsibility on those days.

ADAMS: In the end, no one testified that Mubarak gave the order to kill protesters. Hoda Nasrallah of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is on a legal team representing 75 of the victims' families. She says she believes even if it is a weak case, there's still enough evidence to link the former president to the crimes.

HODA NASRALLAH: (Through translator) Adly would not be able to give the orders to kill the people without Mubarak's knowledge. Mubarak did not need to give the order to Adly to shoot, but his knowledge of it and not objecting to it makes him guilty.

ADAMS: Mubarak's lawyers declined requests for an interview. On a busy street in the Cairo neighborhood of Garden City, not everyone is convinced that a Mubarak conviction would bring Egyptians justice. When the trial started back in August, many Egyptians were demanding revenge for the deaths of the protesters. Since then, public attention has shifted to an ongoing crime wave and the stagnant economy.

The impending verdict is competing for attention with the divisive presidential campaign. A runoff vote later this month pits Mubarak's last prime minister against the candidate of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Sixty-year-old butcher Mohammed Hassan says he's more concerned about seeing his business wither since the revolution than seeing Mubarak executed.

MOHAMMED HASSAN: (Through interpreter) He's an old man. He's over 80. What good would it do to punish him now? He's dying anyway.

ADAMS: But other Egyptians, like Karima el-Sayid, a 35-year-old housewife, say a not guilty verdict on the murder charges is unacceptable.

KARIMA EL SAYID: (Speaking foreign language)

ADAMS: Mubarak and the others shouldn't just be punished, she says, they should be executed. Mubarak also faces corruption charges, which could lead to a prison sentence. He and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are accused, among other things, of accepting bribes in exchange for facilitating natural gas contracts.

This week, the younger Mubaraks were also charged with insider trading involving the sale of an Egyptian bank. A trial date for that case hasn't been set. For NPR News, I'm Kimberly Adams in Cairo.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.