Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mubarak's Double…And His Silence

By Mshari Al-Zaydi
The first session of the trial of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, and a number of other former senior security figures, was a historic event in every sense of the world. This momentous occasion can be summed up by the images of the defendants in the dock, the charges levelled against them, the huge number of people attending the trial, and the demeanour of the judge, not to mention the huge implications of this trial.
Outside of the courtroom clashes took place between those who support Hosni Mubarak being brought to trial, and those who oppose this measure. The last thing that anyone could expect in an atmosphere such as this – where emotions on both sides are boiling over – is to obtain the whole truth.
Inside the courtroom, everybody was aware that a camera was filming proceedings and that history was unfolding in front of them. This is why dozens of people jostled and shoved one another to reach the microphone and stand in the spotlight. We saw a legion of lawyers representing the families of victims [killed during the Egyptian revolution] vying with each other to address the judge, who had no choice but to order the microphone to be passed around from one lawyer to the other so that each could have his say.
In my opinion, the moments which most genuinely summed up the scene that took place in the Egyptian courtroom, and the emotions on display, was the same incident that many viewed as a divergence or distraction. I am talking about when one of the Egyptian lawyers sprang up and demanded to speak, saying that he had information that would change the entire course of the trial. In simple terms, this lawyer claimed that the man lying in his hospital bed in the dock was not Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president, but rather a “double” or lookalike, for the real Hosni Mubarak had died in 2004. This lawyer then demanded that a DNA sample be taken from this “double” and examined against DNA samples taken from his two sons who were also standing in the dock. I don’t know why this man didn’t also claim that Alaa and Gamal Mubarak had died years ago, and that the two men standing in the dock were also lookalikes!
The second most revealing moment of the first session of this trial was the moment – or let us say moments – of former president Hosni Mubarak’s silence and inattention to the trial’s proceedings. This gave me the impression that the man was largely indifferent and apathetic to the entire trial. It was as if he had plugged his ears and closed his eyes to the bedlam that was taking place around him in the courtroom and was trying to promote the idea that he is a man who is bravely and stoically facing a tragic plight.
Why are these images or scenes the most revealing, in my opinion?
This is because the man putting forward the “Mubarak is a double” theory best sums up the collective feeling that tends – usually in moments of ending, or the ending of one chapter of history and the beginning of another – to make denials and identify with the former state of affairs. Facing a great and unbending source of evil sometimes protects us from facing our personal responsibilities. In Mubarak’s case, the presence of a state of comprehensive injustice and corruption considerably reduced the sense of personal responsibility to effect change, because this source of evil cannot be defended against. Therefore this lawyer was engaged in a subconscious battle to avoid confronting his own personal responsibility.
As for Mubarak’s silence and indifference to the trial’s proceedings, this could perhaps stem from his belief that the issue has gone beyond the stage where he can defend himself in words. Perhaps he believes that he had already been judged guilty even before the trial begun, and that he was sentenced to death the second he entered the dock. Perhaps Mubarak believes that even if through some miracle the judge acquits him, or sentences him to a light sentence, this will not represent a victory. This is because the damage has already been done and cannot be repaired. This is not discounting the possibility that Mubarak has completely lost his senses in light of everything that is happening around him!
As for the other moments that occurred during the first session of Mubarak’s trial, these merely revealed what was already known.
-This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 08/08/2011
-Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly column

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