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Published on June 13th, 2012 | by Lucy Bailey
Image © [caption id="attachment_10318" align="alignnone" width="568" caption="Egyptian police confront protesters during Mubarak trial ©Maggie Osama"][/caption]   Earlier this month, former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, became the first Arab leader ever to be deposed; tried; convicted; and incarcerated in one of his own prisons, by his own citizens. Mubarak’s hearing, titled ‘trial of the century’ was held on Saturday 2nd June, where he was given a sentence of life imprisonment for complicity in the murder of 850 protesters. Crowds gathered outside the courthouse to hear the verdict, among them many of the relatives of martyrs who were killed by Mubarak’s security forces during the uprising. When the sentence was read out, crowds reacted with euphoria, streets celebrated, fireworks set off and many fell to their knees crying. Mubarak, also crying, was then taken to Torah prison, where hundreds of his political opponents and enemies had once been incarcerated. But does this landmark trial really signify a victory for the Egyptian people? When thousands took to the streets on 25th January 20ll to protest against widespread poverty, rampant unemployment, government corruption and the autocratic governance of President Mubarak, few could have imagined that the man who had ruled as a dictator for almost three decades would relinquish power just seventeen days later. When the army took control of the country following Mubarak’s resignation, they promised to protect the people and implement the aims of the revolution. The demonstrators welcomed them, and the Egyptian people looked ahead to a democratic election and a hopeful future. However the reality has not lived up to those early expectations as one and a half years on the original aims of the revolution are still far from being met. This week the country will hold its first free presidential election, but with the choice limited to a conservative Islamist or a remnant of Mubarak's ousted regime, many people feel disaffected and uninspired by either candidate. Ahmed Shafik, a former Prime Minister, is despised for belonging to the old regime, but many are suspicious that Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, will steep the country in Islamic law and reduce civil liberties. Liberals; socialists; Muslims; others who share the democratic ideals of the Arab Spring; and who formed a slight majority of those who voted in the first round of elections last month, fear that a key opportunity for freedom and change is slipping away. Alongside difficulties in the election, there are also signs that the country is still in the grip of the old regime. Whilst the initial reaction to Mubarak’s life sentence was jubilant, it soon turned to anger, as it emerged that the rest of the defendants on trial had been found not guilty or received much lighter sentences. Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were found not guilty of corruption, despite having allegedly accumulated a £215 million during their father’s rule; Mubarak was also cleared of corruption charges. Alongside this, six security officials, senior policemen, and a family friend who was accused of offering the Mubarak family bribes in relation to property development were acquitted of the charges against them, or found not guilty. Many Egyptians are convinced that the army has controlled the trial behind the scenes, and the fact that Mubarak has been given a life sentence rather than the death penalty has lead to concern that the verdict has been left ‘wide open’ to appeal. If Ahmed Shafik wins the presidential election, he could overturn or reduce the sentence and allow Mubarak to walk free. Although the presidential election may not be offering what many had hoped for and the trial may have increased doubts over whether the army will willingly give up power to the new government, the future is far from bleak, further protests seem likely. As one demonstrator, Amr Magdy, put it, "Tahrir will fill up again with protesters. In Egypt the only way you can get any justice is by protesting." Mona Ammar, a protester on Tahrir Square, said, "If Shafik wins we will rise against him”. Plans to boycott the presidential election are also gaining momentum as people seek an alternative to having to choose between two bad candidates. Furthermore, the political situation could be further unsettled this week by two constitutional court rulings. The court is expected to decide whether Shafik should be disqualified from the presidential race because of a law passed by parliament in April banning top officials of the former regime from becoming president; the court will also decide whether to effectively abolish the new Islamist-led parliament. So while Mubarak’s trial and the events of the presidential election may just be further steps in the long process of revolution, it is clear that the Egyptian revolution is far from over.

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The Future of Egypt and Trial of Mubarak in focus

Egyptian police confront protesters during Mubarak trial ©Maggie Osama

 

Earlier this month, former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, became the first Arab leader ever to be deposed; tried; convicted; and incarcerated in one of his own prisons, by his own citizens. Mubarak’s hearing, titled ‘trial of the century’ was held on Saturday 2nd June, where he was given a sentence of life imprisonment for complicity in the murder of 850 protesters. Crowds gathered outside the courthouse to hear the verdict, among them many of the relatives of martyrs who were killed by Mubarak’s security forces during the uprising. When the sentence was read out, crowds reacted with euphoria, streets celebrated, fireworks set off and many fell to their knees crying. Mubarak, also crying, was then taken to Torah prison, where hundreds of his political opponents and enemies had once been incarcerated.

But does this landmark trial really signify a victory for the Egyptian people? When thousands took to the streets on 25th January 20ll to protest against widespread poverty, rampant unemployment, government corruption and the autocratic governance of President Mubarak, few could have imagined that the man who had ruled as a dictator for almost three decades would relinquish power just seventeen days later. When the army took control of the country following Mubarak’s resignation, they promised to protect the people and implement the aims of the revolution. The demonstrators welcomed them, and the Egyptian people looked ahead to a democratic election and a hopeful future. However the reality has not lived up to those early expectations as one and a half years on the original aims of the revolution are still far from being met.

This week the country will hold its first free presidential election, but with the choice limited to a conservative Islamist or a remnant of Mubarak’s ousted regime, many people feel disaffected and uninspired by either candidate. Ahmed Shafik, a former Prime Minister, is despised for belonging to the old regime, but many are suspicious that Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, will steep the country in Islamic law and reduce civil liberties. Liberals; socialists; Muslims; others who share the democratic ideals of the Arab Spring; and who formed a slight majority of those who voted in the first round of elections last month, fear that a key opportunity for freedom and change is slipping away.

Alongside difficulties in the election, there are also signs that the country is still in the grip of the old regime. Whilst the initial reaction to Mubarak’s life sentence was jubilant, it soon turned to anger, as it emerged that the rest of the defendants on trial had been found not guilty or received much lighter sentences. Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were found not guilty of corruption, despite having allegedly accumulated a £215 million during their father’s rule; Mubarak was also cleared of corruption charges. Alongside this, six security officials, senior policemen, and a family friend who was accused of offering the Mubarak family bribes in relation to property development were acquitted of the charges against them, or found not guilty. Many Egyptians are convinced that the army has controlled the trial behind the scenes, and the fact that Mubarak has been given a life sentence rather than the death penalty has lead to concern that the verdict has been left ‘wide open’ to appeal. If Ahmed Shafik wins the presidential election, he could overturn or reduce the sentence and allow Mubarak to walk free.

Although the presidential election may not be offering what many had hoped for and the trial may have increased doubts over whether the army will willingly give up power to the new government, the future is far from bleak, further protests seem likely. As one demonstrator, Amr Magdy, put it, “Tahrir will fill up again with protesters. In Egypt the only way you can get any justice is by protesting.” Mona Ammar, a protester on Tahrir Square, said, “If Shafik wins we will rise against him”. Plans to boycott the presidential election are also gaining momentum as people seek an alternative to having to choose between two bad candidates. Furthermore, the political situation could be further unsettled this week by two constitutional court rulings. The court is expected to decide whether Shafik should be disqualified from the presidential race because of a law passed by parliament in April banning top officials of the former regime from becoming president; the court will also decide whether to effectively abolish the new Islamist-led parliament. So while Mubarak’s trial and the events of the presidential election may just be further steps in the long process of revolution, it is clear that the Egyptian revolution is far from over.

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