As the helicopter circled Cairo’s police academy building, the large crowd gathered outside pointed and stared. Rumour had it that inside was the man who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for 30 years. Despite the revolution, despite the collapse of his regime, despite the fact that Hosni Mubarak has spent the last five months helpless in a sick bed, Egyptians never really believed this time would come. The time when Mubarak, the all-powerful, unchallengeable modern-day pharaoh, would face his accusers in a court of law outside of his control.
It wasn’t until Mubarak, still bedridden, was wheeled into the courtroom itself that Egyptians allowed themselves to enjoy the spectacle. And what a spectacle it was. The courtroom was packed, and unruly, with the judge repeatedly calling for order and calm. Mubarak and his sons, all dressed in white, appeared behind the metal bars of the prisoner cage which is traditional in Egyptian courtrooms, accused of the murder of protesters as well as corruption. The world has not witnessed such a fall from grace since Saddam Hussein was found in his dark hole by American forces.
A huge crowd gathered outside the court for the first day of the trial, with minor scuffles breaking out between the remnants of Mubarak’s support and the people who’d come to celebrate his downfall. It was broadcast live on Egyptian television, as well as on Al-Jazeera, BBC and CNN. Tellingly, it wasn’t shown on state television in any other country in the Middle East, with the exception of Tunisia; there are still too many Mubarak-like leaders in the region that fear the same fate.
Mubarak’s contribution to day one of the trial was brief. In a level voice, he confirmed his name and presence, and in response to the charges said: “I have not committed any such crimes, your honour”. In typical Egyptian humour, this statement has swiftly become a popular ringtone.
It’s not known how long it will take the court to reach a verdict. Mubarak’s lawyers are threatening to draw the trial on for as long as possible, while some revolutionaries want a swift decision. Mubarak will appear in court again on August 15. DM
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Photo: Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is seen in the courtroom for his trial at the Police Academy in Cairo in this still image taken from video August 3, 2011.
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