Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mubarak’s Trial Between Justice And Revenge

By Elias Harfoush
Judge Ahmad Refaat did well yesterday when he decided to halt the televised series that is the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, not only “in order to preserve the public good,” but also in order to preserve the credibility of the work of Cairo’s criminal court. Indeed, the scene of Mubarak being carried to court in an ambulance while lying on his sick bed has raised compassion towards the accused president instead of raising compassion towards the victims who fell in the clashes between the security forces and the protesting rebels.
There is a difference between implementing justice and practicing revenge, and between the ruling issued by the judiciary in order to achieve justice and the “rulings” issued by the public with the aim of revenge. The method being followed in Mubarak’s trial opens the door to discussing the distance that the Cairo criminal court possesses – and that is increasingly narrowing – between the implementation of justice and the practice of revenge. This is because the implementation of justice does not call for bringing a patient to court, even if this was an “imaginary patient,” similarly to Moliere’s famous play [Le Malade Imaginaire], but rather to try him in absentia similarly to many trials taking place in the courts around the world in similar cases.
Ever since the fall of Mubarak and the launching of his trial’s preparations, it was said that the ruling military council is being subjected to pressure from the part of the revolution in order to bring Mubarak behind the bars of the court, handcuffed in front of the cameras because “the blood of the rebels” who fell in the Tahrir Square calls for that. It was also said that the decline of Mubarak’s health is a mere rumor aiming at rescuing him from the court and thus from being convicted. The Egyptian judiciary has undoubtedly proven its seriousness and independence when it proceeded with the trial of the ousted president. This judiciary system is now required to prove its professionalism and neutrality away from the desires of the ruling military council and the demands of the angry Street.
This is because the military council is not free from mistakes. The Egyptian newspapers affiliated with the revolution have stated, ever since the launching of the investigations with the former president, that a “deal” had been struck between him and Col. Hussein Tantawi, his minister of defense for twenty years. The deal consists of the president relinquishing power in return of abstaining from trying him. Then, it seemed that this “deal,” if it truly exists, will terminate all the political hopes that the military council members might have. At the end of the day, the latter are just human and not angels. This means that they do have ambitions in a country where the four presidents, since the July 1952 revolution, have originated from the military institution.
It is no longer a secret that the military council in Egypt is not acting as an interim authority and is rather working for a phase where it would be the actual ruler, even if this were to take place through the civil figure that the presidential elections will bring to the Abidin Palace, provided that those elections do take place. The fact that activist Asma Mahfouz was referred to the military court under charges of “offending” the military council has stirred angry reactions from the part of those people who are protesting against the trial of civilians in military courts at a time where those who are accused of giving orders to shoot the rebels are being tried in civil courts. This is the case of President Mubarak and Interior Minister, Habib al-Adli.
The scene of Hosni Mubarak lying in his bed in the Cairo court reminded me of the scene of the 91-year-old John Demjanjuk being carried in his wheelchair between the courts of Israel, the United States, and Germany for charges of killing 28,000 Jews in the Nazi camps in World War II. Then the Munich Court convicted him last May and later decided to release him because of his old age. In front of that trial we wondered: Is there no room for compassion in the hearts of those who are calling for avenging the Nazi crimes?
We are not advocating for the culture of Gandhi or Nelson Mandela in our nations because we know that it is completely foreign to our own culture. But we hope that we will not have to remember the scene of Demjanjuk once again as we follow the trial of Hosni Mubarak.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 16/08/2011

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