Friday, May 27, 2011

Egypt: Mubarak's Trial Poses Challenge To Judiciary

By Samer Al-Atrush 
This analysis was published in The Kuwait Times on 26/05/2011

The trial of ex-president Hosni Mubarak will pose several challenges to Egypt's court system, chiefly how to assure a skeptical public that the ousted dictator will be judged impartially, legal experts say. The formal charges of murder and graft following Mubarak's initial detention in April came amid the threat of mass protests which the ruling military-seen as rather out of its depth-wants to avoid. That, according to human rights lawyer Gamal Eid, is reason to fear that Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades, may still manage to escape justice if pressure is not kept on the military. "The problem is that justice has not moved according to the law, but because of popular pressure," he said. "This increases suspicion that if people are not alert, there will be no justice.

Mubarak is accused of involvement in the killings of anti-regime protesters and several counts of corruption. An official inquiry has said that at least 846 people died in the protests that overthrew him. His two sons, who face the same charges, are in a Cairo prison. But the former president, who turned 83 this month, has managed to avoid jail after he reportedly suffered a heart attack during an interrogation in April. He is in police custody in a hospital in the Red Sea town of Sharm El-Sheikh, which issues almost daily reports on his health.
His condition is said to have improved but the interior ministry, tasked by the public prosecutor with transferring him to a military hospital and then a prison hospital, does not appear close to carrying out the order. A medical report commissioned by the public prosecutor said Mubarak was in stable condition as long as he received treatment for his heart condition, but he had to be kept in a place ready to deal with any deterioration in his health. The delay in transferring Mubarak may indicate that putt ing him on trial will be very difficult, Eid said. "Maybe they'll say Mubarak will be tried, but only when his health improves," he said.

Mahmud al-Khodeiry, the former deputy head of the appeal court and a judicial reformer, said Mubarak was healthy enough to stand trial, even if he had stay in hospital between hearings. "Mubarak's health shouldn't prevent him from being tried. He could go from the hospital to court appearances," he said. The date for the trial of Mubarak and his sons, and its location, have not yet been set. The official MENA news agency reported it will be held in a Cairo district criminal court, but the court could be moved to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Ahmed Mekki, deputy head of Cairo appeal court, said such a move would have no precedent. "But it is allowed by law. They can all be tried there, because of the security conditions, for example." Wherever it happens, the court must do its best to make the unprecedented trial as transparent as possible, Mekki and Khodeiry said. The Egyptian judiciary has avoided the purges that targeted the police and government after the revolt that toppled Mubarak on February 11. It generally enjoys a reputation of integrity, but it also has its doubters who point to serving judges famous for harsh sentencing of dissidents under Mubarak.
It has also never dealt with a trial on this scale. Several ministers are on trial, on charges ranging from involvement in violence against anti-regime protesters to corruption, but trying a former president is a different matter. Mekki and Khodeiry said a moratorium on filming trials should be waived in this instance. "The trial should be filmed. We need it to be broadcast, because secrecy will make people suspect the proceedings," Khodeiry said. "This is a unique trial, and it is a cause for anxiety. Can it be a fair trial? It will be a test," Mekki said.- AFP

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